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Council on Aging celebrates 50th anniversary serving seniors

It has been said that when former Sen. Brian Lees comes to the senior center that "it's like Elvis walking into the room." Reminder Publications photo by Courtney Llewellyn
By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW What is a senior center?

It's a place for the retired people in town to enjoy educational, cultural and recreational activities, according to Leon Osborne, chair of the East Longmeadow Council on Aging.

It is an entity that advocates for senior services, according to Carolyn Brennan, the executive director for the Pleasant View Senior Center.

"It's a home away from home," Emmett Schmarsow, program manager for Councils on Aging from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, said. The seniors in attendance at the Pleasant View Senior Center's 50th anniversary agreed.

The ceremony celebrated more than the council's 50 year history, however. Many of the speakers spoke fondly of past directors Bunny Celia and Rosalind Clark.

A Special Town Meeting in June 1958 established the town's Council on Aging, which has moved several times before settling into its location on North Main Street.

Times have changed since the council started half a century ago its first budget was made up of $100, and by 1969, that figure totaled $600. Now, the center has received two appropriations of $425,000 for renovations from residents and another $400,000 in state grants.

Seniors filled the hall at the center last Thursday during the 50th anniversary celebration, as did local dignitaries. Board of Selectmen chair Jim Driscoll noted that last year, more than 1,500 seniors were served by the center, proclaimed that Brennan was "the most outstanding [center] director in Western Massachusetts" and that the town will continue to fight hard for funding for the Council on Aging.

Aides from Sen. Gale Candaras, Rep. Angelo Puppolo and Rep. Mary Rogeness' offices presented citations to mark the momentous occasion.

Former senator and current Clerk/Magistrate Brian Lees, who Brennan said can be "like Elvis walking into the Senior Center," also spoke during the ceremony.

"Working on the building projects here have brought me joy," Lees told those assembled. "Senior care was always my number one priority when I was a legislator." He presented a citation from the Hampden County Clerk's office.

In addition to the citations, a number of gifts were donated to the center, including checks from the Lion's Club, Carr Property Management and Wingate at East Longmeadow, which Brennan said would be going toward the center's lunch and Meals on Wheels programs. Forastiere Smith Funeral home donated artwork for the half-renovated building and Redstone Rehabilitation & Nursing Center presented a Nintendo Wii as a gift.

The 50th anniversary celebration closed with a slideshow of photographs of the past five decades.

Click here to view more celebration photos