Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM Last week, Mayor Susan Dawson made a visit to the senior center to dispel speculation that the new Main Street Senior Center would be turned into a community center and to update seniors about the progress of their new facility.
Before a crowded lunch room, Dawson said that the "intentions for the [new senior center] building have never changed." She explained that a proposal to call the facility "The Agawam Center" as opposed to "The Agawam Senior Center" was in no way a means to differ the original intention of the building.
Dawson's comments were met with jubilation as she assured those in attendance that the facility's official title would "go up on a sign before too long."
"Everybody wanted it to be called 'The Agawam Senior Center' because we worked so darn hard for it," Emile Cot , president of the Friends of the Agawam Senior Center, told Reminder Publications. He added that this new facility should be a place where seniors can go and feel welcome.
Dawson explained that with the building erected she and other Building Committee members are focusing on the details of the project such as furniture, paint colors, pavers and ensuring that the facility is ADA (American's with Disabilities Act) compliant.
"It's going to be gorgeous," Dawson said. "I am delighted that we have been able to build a new senior center that will not only meet the current needs of our senior population but will also meet the future needs of our seniors that are still coming. We have put things in the new center that will allow for expansion of programs to meet the ever changing needs of the next generation."
She said the focus now is on establishing a committee to expand programming at the much larger facility. Dawson added that she invites all seniors to volunteer for the committee.
Senior Center Director Joan Linnehan noted that the significantly larger Main Street facility will allow for programs, activities and group meetings to take place simultaneously in private rooms as opposed to having to share the space at the current facility.
"It's [the new facility] a dream come true," she said with a smile.
Linnehan added that the Agawam seniors have been waiting over a decade for a new center. The new facility was in the Capital Budget for 12 years, she said.
Dawson and Linnehan noted that fundraising efforts on behalf of the new senior center will continue well after the facility's completion this fall. Dawson explained that the Building Committee is considering establishing a "giving tree" in the new center that will allow for ongoing donations from private citizens and businesses as well as permanent recognition on the tree. Dawson said the money would be used toward programs, bus trips, repairs and any other needs the seniors deem important.
Linnehan and Cot said they are eager to move into the new facility and begin expanded programming and evening functions.
Cot noted that the opening of the new facility will be a bittersweet moment for him because his wife Cathy, one of the original members of the Building Committee, will not be there to see it. Cathy lost her battle with cancer in 2006. He said he is hoping to dedicate a room in the new center in memory of his wife.
Dawson said the facility should be completed by November and the town plans to take control of the building on Nov. 26. She added that the transition process into the new building should take approximately one month.