Published August 21, 2012
Lacey seniors returning home after back-to-school experienceCHELSEA KROTZER
Senior citizens spent the summer back in school as crews began work on expanding the Lacey Senior Center. Some programs, including lunch service, were moved to Chinook Middle School in May so construction could begin on the $2.4 million project, which will add 5,388 square feet to the 5,014-square-foot facility. Construction is not expected to finish until the end of March, but the seniors will head back to the center next week so the middle school students can begin the school year. Time in the larger facility has given the seniors a taste of what they will experience, according to Chris Quimby, director of the Lacey and Olympia senior centers. The two centers are part of Senior Services for South Sound. “It’s very big; we are used to seeing each other all the time,” said Edward Flynn, a center member and volunteer Flynn was staffing the sign-in station during Friday’s lunch hour. The Lacey resident said the move has tacked on some extra drive time. “I have to remind myself to leave early,” Flynn said. The senior services members have been using the school’s cafeteria and both gyms. On especially busy days, chairs were set up just inside the entrance of the school. “In the beginning everyone was excited about how much room we have and that we didn’t have time constraints,” said Kate Greene, Senior Center manager. Exercise classes were held in the center’s lunchroom, meaning staffers had to move tables and chairs outside the building to make room. “We were constantly setting up tables and breaking down tables all over the place,” Greene said. The expansion project will provide a room specifically for exercise classes. While displaced, seniors exercised and learned ballroom dancing in the middle school gymnasiums. “It’s going to be bigger – essentially twice the size it is now,” Quimby said. “There is going to be longer walks in the building, which is good.” The center’s Meals On Wheels program and lunch program, both done from the center’s kitchen, were also moved to the middle school while the center’s kitchen was expanded. Having a bigger place to cook meals was one of the driving factors behind the expansion. “That was the primary motivating factor to expand the center, just the fact that we couldn’t produce enough meals in our own kitchen to keep up with the demand with the Meals On Wheels and congregate meals,” said Lori Flemm, Lacey Parks and Recreation director. The center had 360 members when it opened in 2003. That has risen to 1,600, causing overcrowding and deterring some potential new members. Work will continue once the seniors move back to the center. The east end of the building will be blocked off. The only program not moving back until construction is done is the center’s Services To At-Risk Seniors (STARS) Program, which has moved to River Ridge Covenant Church off Steilacoom Road. After moving back to the Senior Center on Aug. 27, members actually will have a little less room while the rest of the construction is finished, according to volunteer receptionist Sandy Ammons. She started volunteering when the center moved to the middle school and is excited to get back to its own building. There is one drawback about the expansion. “I won’t be able to see the line-dancing and exercise going on from my desk anymore,” Ammons said, laughing.