From dream...to realityBy Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM What began as the dream of a few residents a decade ago has blossomed into a $6.4 million state of the art facility dedicated to Agawam's seniors.
The growing population of senior citizens will no longer be cramped inside the current center on Meadowbrook Manor when the new, larger building on Main Street opens in January.
"This has been my baby. When I got here it was grass and a tree," Joe Avey, job superintendent for Barr Inc., said. "I'm proud to have built it."
As Building Committee Chair and City Clerk Richard Theroux gave Reminder Publications a tour of the new facility last week, he noted that the project will be completed on time and on budget.
When entering the Senior Center through the automatic sliding doors one enters the lobby modeled after a street scene, complete with lampposts, park benches and walls covered in exterior siding. Adjacent to the lobby, is the 1950s caf and coffee bar, which Theroux said will be completed with chrome tables, red chairs and school house lights.
Also located on the main level is a TV and card room, an arts and crafts room, a 12-station computer room, a six-table billiard room, a ping pong room, a library, a multi-purpose ballroom, conference room and administrative offices.
All of the rooms are brightly painted and illuminated with large windows and ornate lighting. The library offers a cozy alternative to the busy activities associated with the other rooms, complete with a gas fireplace and double doors to create privacy.
The lower level offers a dining room for approximately 250 people, a stage for performances and bingo, a kitchen, a fitness room complete with bikes, treadmills and free weights and an outdoor patio with tables and chairs.
Theroux explained that the large dining room and kitchen will allow the center to expand the number of seniors eating at the facility as well as those who are a part of the Meals on Wheels program.
He said currently the Building Committee is ordering furniture for the building thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Friends of the Agawam Senior Center, who raised over $225,000. Theroux added that the committee has received three to four quotes for furnishings in order to "get the best price."
"We're on a tight budget [but we'll] make it work," he said.
Friends President Emile Cote explained that the group has not stopped their fundraising efforts and will continue to do so as long as there is a need.
"We're so excited [about the new Senior Center]," he said. "We can't wait [for it to open]. It's been a long row to hoe."
Senior Center Director Joan Linnehan said she is amazed by the beauty of the new facility and cannot wait to begin more programs and classes that weren't possible at the smaller location.
Once criticized for the size and cost of the new center, which is double the size of Meadowbrook Manor, Theroux explained that the Building Committee "wanted to do it right the first time," without having to make any future additions or changes. He said the incoming baby boomer population will need the larger facility.
"This is an expensive project but it also improves the fabric of our community," Theroux said, adding that the center's location adjacent to the Housing Authority makes for an ideal "campus setting" allowing seniors to walk to the new facility.
Despite the joys of wrapping up this two-year design and building process, Theroux said the grand opening will be bittersweet. He noted that two members of the Friends of the Agawam Senior Center largely dedicated to the completion of a new facility will not be there to see the fruits of their labor.
"Pauline Paquette passed away earlier this year and Mrs. [Cathy] Cote also passed away two wonderful people who helped us a lot," he said, adding that he is sure they will be there in spirit.
The grand opening is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 5, according to city officials.
For caption information, click on each of the photos within the slide show.