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Paynesville Press - November 01, 2006

Paynesville Area Center
celebrates 15 years

By Michael Jacobson

Only a few dozen people attended the 15th anniversary celebration for the Paynesville Area Center last week, but the real usage of the community facility is evident by another number: 32,000.

That's the number of people who have used the facility within the last year through one of its many functions: i.e. aerobics and aqua-fitness classes, weekly quilting sessions or eye-glass sorting, organizational meetings, other meetings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous), Senior Dining, social events or music practices, and the R.O.S.E. Center.

"It's come a long way," said Savage. "It's become a community project. Before it was just seniors; now it's everybody."

The center has grown beyond what it's founders envisioned 15 years ago, said Judy Savage, who served eight years on the board of directors, including as one of its first presidents. They had no idea how many ways the center would be used by seniors and the public.

"I think it's really blossomed," explained Savage.

"It's used by everybody," added Gloria Ringstad.

The 32,000 users within the past year is "your proof right there," said Savage. "That just goes to show the need. When we started this, we had no inkling of all the uses."

The usage in the past year is "pretty impressive," agreed current board president John Horn.

"This place is for everybody," he said. "You name it...they've got it out here."

The center remains very important to seniors; where else would they get these services, asked Horn. Paynesville, he said, would not be as attractive to senior living without the Paynesville Area Center, he said.

The original idea for a senior center is attributed to senior advocate Gladys Deadrick in the 1980s, and by 1989 a five-member committee was established. It became a nine-member task force in 1990.

By April 1990, nearly $60,000 was pledged to build the Paynesville Senior Center, and, by August 1990, $112,000 was pledged and the ceremonial groundbreaking was held with 75 local seniors participating.

Over 500 individuals, 150 businesses, and 20 organizations gave to the construction, raising $141,000 for the project, with the remaining $29,000 for construction borrowed. The debt was paid by 1993.

The Paynesville Area Center, as it was originally called, opened in the spring of 1991, but the three-day grand opening was held in October 1991. Last week's 15th anniversary celebration was timed to coincide with the grand opening 15 years ago.

When it was being proposed, the center was touted as a focal point for seniors to enhance their dignity, support their independence, and encourage their involvement in the community. That's exactly what happened. The Paynesville Area Center now serves the social needs (through its multitude of activities and events) and their physical needs (for nutrition through Senior Dining or home-delivered meals and in other ways by volunteers from the R.O.S.E. Center).

Seniors come not just from Paynesville but from surrounding communities, said board secretary Bunny Fasen, and they likely stop to shop before they go home.

"I think for some of them that come on a regular basis it's like family," said center director Inez Jones.

Two original board members attended the 15th anniversary celebration on Wednesday, Oct. 25: Savage and Eleanor Wimmer, who came from the Koronis Manor to attend. Harry Snyder of Paynesville, who made the motion for the Paynesville Senior Citizens Club to build, also attended.

"A lot of years gone by, a lot of work, a lot of good people," said Savage about the center.

The name was changed to the Paynesville Area Center in December 1998 to reflect the use of the facility by the entire community and to encourage non-seniors to participate in the activities at the center.

The R.O.S.E. Center - which provides volunteer services to area seniors - was started in 1999. Volunteers offer any services that can help seniors - rides to medical appointments, raking leaves, shoveling snow, reading, etc. - live independently and happily.

This year, one improvement at the center is a new walk-in cooler and a walk-in freezer in the kitchen.

The challenge for the center is the future, added Horn. There are always ways to get better. "The main thing is the younger generation has to keep this going," he said.

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