BRD, seniors chart center activity plans

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Opening day for the Jimmy Furlow Senior Citizens Center indowntown Brookhaven is fast approaching, and local seniors areweighing in on their ideas for the operation.

Based on the comments and requests of a group of city seniorswho attended a public hearing on the soon-to-open facility Tuesday,the most effective use of the $800,000 building may come as agathering place for various clubs and organizations manned by theelderly. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) ofLincoln County has been cleared to hold monthly meetings in thebuilding, a local square dancing club is looking forward to puttingboots on the floor there and the organization of card-playing clubsis just around the corner.

“Honey, we are ready for it,” said Angie Roberson, president ofthe local AARP chapter. “It will give us somewhere we can go forprivacy, a place of our own.”

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Brookhaven Recreation Department Director Terry Reid outlined afew ideas for the senior center, which is intended for people age50 and up, but stressed to the seniors gathered that the operationof the facility would be their choice. Once the building opensearly next year, he said one of the first actions would be layingout the courtyard in the rear of the building, which would behandled by the Lincoln County Master Gardeners with input fromsenior citizens.

“We’re just going to do whatever anyone wants to do is the mainthing,” he said. “If you have an idea, bring it to us. If anyonewants to try something, we’ll try it.”

Reid said the senior center would operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.on weekdays, and would feature structured events – certain timesset aside for certain activities – as well as open rooms forfellowship and games. The center will utilize an art instructor toteach beginning and advanced classes in art, as well as a computerguru to assist and teach seniors on basic Internet uses. Varioushealth and exercise programs are also planned.

The center’s main room will be equipped with a sound system andlarge TV, and has the capacity to seat around 100 people, Reidsaid, and he intends to bring guest speakers in from time to time.Plans also call for the establishment of a senior citizensnewsletter outlining upcoming events at the facility, he said.

“We’re all going to have to work together to make this our own,”Reid said. “I’ve been doing this recreation stuff for 14 years, andI’ve dealt with everything, but the one niche I’ve never been ableto fill is senior citizens. We’ve never been able to offeranything.”

Center director Nancy Ray said the building would not be rentedout, but special night events will be scheduled as needed. She saidTuesday’s emphasis on meetings and clubs would be considered at theforefront of future planning.

“I feel like everyone is as excited as we are to get started,”Ray said. “We’ve got about three groups lined up to begin meetingregularly.”

About the only complaint voiced by seniors at Tuesday’s meetingwas the lack of cooking possibilities at the senior center. Reiddescribed the small kitchen as a “warming kitchen,” and no largefood programs will be undertaken.

“It’s too bad about the food,” said Janey Hess, who recentlyreturned to Brookhaven from Florida. “There are a lot of seniorswho can’t cook for themselves, and that would be a greatservice.”

Hess, a longtime traveler and veteran participant in many seniorcenters, said the Jimmy Furlow Senior Citizens Center is off to agood start, kitchen shortcomings notwithstanding.

“It will be an asset to downtown and the seniors in the area,”she said. “Many elderly are lonely and live alone, and they need tointeract with each other and be drawn out in a structured setting.There’s a good, wide scope of activities to appeal to a lot ofseniors.”