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Seniors of Tower Heights get new community center

POSTED: August 2, 2014 12:21 a.m.

Olga Burch conducts bingo as Maria Cuevas, from left, Clara May Cheeks and Ashley Cuevas play.

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After more than a year of planning and renovation, the seniors of the Tower Heights community have their new community service center.

The Tower Heights Community Service Center takes over the space formerly used for the Guest House, an adult care center evicted by the Gainesville Housing Authority.

“The whole idea is to try to help our seniors age in place with the best quality of life,” said Beth Brown, interim executive director for the authority. “We like to try to expand our programs and services based on what our residents want and what is in reason for us to coordinate.”

Before the center was opened in May, offices were painted and renovations were made to the kitchen, including new cabinets, countertops and a stove, she said.

“They also had a little nurses station where the Guest House kept medication,” Brown said. “That’s what we’re making into the computer station.”

To get residents interested in the center, Olga Burch, its hostess, conducted a survey to see what it should offer.

“Now we offer bingo, games, art classes, English as a second language classes, gardening,” Burch said. “But the most that they preferred was bingo.”

On the last Friday of every month, she said she plans to host a bingo game with popcorn and hot dogs and the first three winners receiving prizes.

After bingo, the community garden is the next most popular feature.

“We have a garden in the back with green tomatoes because they love fried green tomatoes,” Burch said. “So we have green tomatoes, red tomatoes, okra, yellow squash, zucchini and chilies.” 

Burch hand-delivers the produce to some residents who have a hard time getting around due to poor health and diabetes. For those residents, the center is planning a health program to teach healthier habits, Burch said.

Another offering for residents with limited travel options is the Sunday church service provided by the missionary group In His Name.

“Many of them can’t get out,” founder Jon Huebner said. “So having (a church service) across the street was something they were interested in.”

Brown said these offerings are only the beginning for the community service center, with a plan in the works to grow the arts program in partnership with the Quinlan Arts Center.

“We’re just getting started expanding those services and making those connections in the community,” she said. “Hopefully over the next six to 12 months the community will see some bigger things happening.”


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