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Agawam celebrates new Senior Center

Date: 1/27/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM Fourteen months ago, the plot at 954 Main St. was home to just a pile of dirt, but all that changed on Jan. 20.

Last Tuesday, Mayor Susan Dawson stood in front of the new Main Street Senior Center to celebrate its grand opening along with over 75 jubilant seniors.

"Today marks a day in our history that everyone in the United States will remember [as we've sworn in our first African-American president]," she said. "It is significant that we would open our new senior center on such a day of change."

The new facility is twice the size of the former center on Meadowbrook Manor and boasts a variety of rooms for individual activities such sewing, exercise, dancing, crafts, billiards, ping-pong and computer technology.

Ann Jackobek, the Senior Center's sewing instructor, explained that at the previous location she had a "small corner" to work with the seniors and a "small cabinet" to store materials.

"I'm just thrilled," she said with a grin, noting that seniors have an entire room solely dedicated to sewing and instruction.

"This is a dream come true," City Councilor George Bitzas, also vice chair of the Senior Center Building Committee, said. "This [center] is a beacon for all and something Agawam can be proud of for many generations to come."

He noted that the new facility was built on time and under budget.

"This is a building that will keep the old young," senior Joann Hagen told Reminder Publications at the grand opening. "We're so lucky to have such a beautiful place to come to."

Seniors were already taking advantage of the billiard room, caf and cafeteria at the opening, participating in a friendly pool tournament and socialization.

Senior Center Director Joan Linnehan explained that personnel hit the ground running on their first official day, providing over 300 meals to incoming seniors and Meals on Wheels.

She said the new facility provides amenities for seniors not often thought of by the average townsperson, such as automatic doors a simple luxury but very important for those using canes, walkers or wheelchairs.

Linnehan noted that the center will allow for expanded programming as well as a dependable location for future generations.

"I've got goose bumps all over," Emile Cot , president of the Friends of the Agawam Senior Center, said.

He added that the work is not over yet. Cot explained that the Friends will continue their fundraising efforts to finish furnishing the facility as well as for future purchases and repairs.

"This center is necessary for our community," City Clerk Richard Theroux, also chair of the Senior Center Building Committee, said. "Thank you to the past administrations under Christopher Johnson and former Mayor Richard Cohen, and for Mayor Dawson who brought us home."