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The Guest House celebrating new hobby shop for seniors
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A newly built hobby shop beside The Guest House located on Oak Street in Gainesville is equipped with everything needed for Guest House clients to try their hands at woodworking. The Guest House's new hobby shop will open this week. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The Guest House hobby shop opening party

When: 4-7 p.m. Thursday

Where: 360 Oak St., Gainesville

More info: Call 770-535-1487 or go to http://theguesthouse.org

Nearly four years ago, The Guest House moved to a new location in Gainesville, leaving a piece of its legacy behind.

The private, nonprofit adult day care center specializing in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was given a 300-square-foot “hobby shop” in 1995, in which seniors could try their hand at woodworking, painting, arts and crafts.

The hands-on activities were enormously beneficial to these seniors, according to executive director Dana Chapman.

“Have you ever smelled the wood, say, at a hardware store?” Chapman said. “The smell of the wood, the feel of it in your hands, for people who have not worked with their hands or who are confused, was a wonderful therapy.”

But when The Guest House was evicted from its former location on Tower Heights Road in 2012, the center had to move unexpectedly and was unable to bring its hobby shop to its new location at 360 Oak St. in Gainesville.

“We had no preparation for moving,” she said. “We had no budget. We couldn’t spend $50,000 or $100,000 on moving.”

Chapman credited Dr. Jeff Payne, ophthalmologist with North Georgia Eye Clinic, for loaning The Guest House money to renovate and rent a building he owned.

“He loaned us money up front, no interest, to renovate it,” she said. “But what got caught up in the mess was that 300-square-foot hobby shop.”

Within days of the move, however, Chapman was approached by Richard Padgham of Richard Padgham Fine Custom Homes Inc.

Padgham wanted to build The Guest House a new hobby shop, and the 400-square-foot building opens this week at The Guest House.

The beautiful little blue house sits adjacent to the center, with rocking chairs on the front porch and patio furniture around the side.

“It’s actually a much, much better space,” Chapman said. “We have it fenced in, which will be safe for all of our clients who wander. There are picnic tables and pretty patio furniture. It’s going to be a beautiful space.”

Since 1985, The Guest House has operated locally as a health care and activities center for seniors who need day care and company.

“We take care of seniors during the day — older, frail seniors and people with dementia,” Chapman said. “People who otherwise would be at risk for nursing home placement away from home who cannot afford an expensive bed, or who can’t get bed space here in town, or who would end up in a nursing home prematurely, because they don’t need to be in a nursing home, they just need a little company and a little help.”

Clients range in age from 55 to 102 and have “all different forms and stages of dementia,” Chapman said.

“It’s painful, and it’s a long haul for the families,” she said.

The center staff includes registered nurses, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, social workers and certified experts to care for the seniors during the day.

“It’s heartwarming to talk to these people,” said board member Sandra Martin. “They really try. Some of them can’t remember much, but some of them can tell you the most wonderful stories.”

The Guest House needs help operating the new hobby shop, according to Martin and Chapman.

“We really need a volunteer who can run it,” Martin said. “That’s the difficult part. I can come sit with them and help them paint and glue stuff, but to really do this, we need something consistent.”

Chapman said any volunteers interested in working regularly, or as little as twice a month, with the hobby shop should contact the center at 770-535-1487.

In particular, they need the help of local woodworkers.

Those interested in learning more about the hobby shop are invited to its opening party Thursday. Drop ins are welcome from 4-7 p.m., with a ribbon cutting at 4:30 p.m.

Chapman said years ago clients in the hobby shop were able to make plaques, signs and art out of wood.

“The last year there, they made Christmas toys for their grandchildren,” she said. “They painted them and took them home. It was the sweetest thing ever. It honestly made you cry. So the shop was always a part of our program that was really important.”