It’s been an emotional roller coaster ride this week for participants and workers at the Senior Life Center in Gainesville.
Knowing they would be spending the last few days at the place that’s been a lifeline for them made some a little misty.
Directors and staff organized a goodbye celebration attended by more than 100 seniors Thursday. They rolled out a large sheet cake with white frosting with words written in red jelly that summed up the feelings of many — “To Great Memories.”
“It’s bittersweet,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Center that runs the senior facility. “We have great memories and remember those who are no longer with us.”
Staff served lunch Friday to several dozen seniors, who played bingo and other games at the old place one last time before it closes for construction that will renovate and expand the facility. Work on the $1.5 million project will commence shortly and continue for about seven months.
When completed, the new center will include conference rooms, a teaching kitchen, wellness room, library and double its space to 12,000 square feet. Moss said the renovated facility will have an airy and contemporary ambiance with surround-sound flat TVs, Wi-Fi and iPods that can be borrowed so seniors can listen to everything from the ‘40s big-band era to today’s hip-hop.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Joann Jones, who has been participating at the center for the past two years. “They say it’s going to look completely different.”
Elenore Banks said she only started going to the center a month ago and is thrilled with the many activities available. On Friday, she left with a bag full of prizes she won playing bingo.
“I’ve met a lot of friends in such a short time,” Banks said.
Celeste Bailey, 75, and 87-year-old Eurie Harden met at the center a few years ago and have become inseparable friends.
“I enjoy meeting all these wonderful people,” Harden said. “I call them my family when I come here.”
The bonds of friendship will continue at the nearby Fair Street Neighborhood Center until construction of the new Senior Life Center is completed, said Brandy Palmero, the senior services manager who also runs the Meals on Wheels.
Palmero said just about all the activities currently offered will be provided at the Fair Street facility.
“I’m a little sad, but also very excited about the new adventure,” Palmero said about the transition.