The Saxton-based Broad Top Area Senior Citizens Center opened in its new headquarters this week during which plans were announced for a gala open house this spring.

Originally scheduled to open in early November 2018 in the former Saxton Sportsmen’s Club building at 102 Main St. in downtown Saxton, the center membership had to reschedule for the new year in order to complete a badly needed facelift to the interior of the two-story structure. That work including extensive floor, wall and ceiling cleaning, painting and some other transitions.

Since 1975, the active senior center was situated in the upper part of the Saxton Borough Municipal building, but the center had to close its doors June 25, 2018, because of structural deficiencies involving a sagging ceiling in the borough-owned structure.

Unable to reach an agreement with the borough over who was responsible for repairing the ceiling, the senior center began the search for a new home, leading the organization to the purchase of the old “Sportys” building. The old structure was vacated by the Sportsmen’s Club in April 2018, after relocating into its newly remodeled home in the former Dollar General Store in downtown Saxton.

The former sportsmen’s building was purchased by the senior center with a closing ceremony held Oct. 18, 2018, in the office of Bedford attorney Barry Scatton. Over the two months that followed, center members and other volunteers devoted over 400 hours to cleaning the old building. The decision to volunteer the labor was necessary because of limited senior center funding, noted Teena Thomas, site manager for both the Saxton and Hopewell senior centers.

Once the cleanup project was completed, the Area Agency on Aging for Huntingdon, Bedford and Fulton counties, gave the green light for the official opening of the senior center, something the center’s 225 members eagerly awaited, explained Thomas.

“We’re very thankful to all the members and other volunteers who worked hard to get the senior center open,” said Thomas. “We’ve been close since last June and it will take a little while to get back to normal.”

The new center will feature much of the same activities held at the old facility, the site manager explained. Already scheduled is weekly Bible study, scheduled for 10 a.m. Mondays, as well as bingo that will take place Tuesday and Thursdays starting at 10 a.m. Traditional health and exercise activities are expected to be launched soon.

One mainstay at the senior center is the daily (Mondays through Fridays) congregate meal program which started up again for nearly two dozen seniors who attended the center’s reopening. The meals arrived at the center around 8 a.m. and are prepared for serving in the center kitchen. Seniors start arriving around 11 a.m. and are seated in the social area of the facility while others enjoy a friendly game of cards and shoot on the upper level of the center.

Improvements were made to the center restrooms, new lighting added and other necessary repairs and cleanup work completed prior to the AAA approval for the reopening of the senior center, noted Thomas.

In addition to the kitchen, handicapped-accessible restrooms and social area, the center also features offices and storage rooms. Thomas explained that the original sportys bar has been spruced up and is now used as a juice station. The ground floor of the building will continue to house the Hopewell-Saxton Area Food Bank free of charge with food bank officials agreeing to help the center with utility costs.

Parking for center officials is available in the back of the building as well as the upper part of the Saxton Sportsmen’s Club parking lot across Main Street (Route 913). Because the center is only open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Friday, the senior parking is not expected to interfere with the Sportys parking.

In addition to fundraising activities and membership dues, the senior center is appreciative of a donation from Green Leaf Medical LLC, which will be opening a medical cannabis manufacturing facility in the former Seton plant in Saxton within a few months. Thomas reported that Green Leaf Medical’s contribution will be very helpful to the senior center in paying its bills.

“We’re so happy to be in our new headquarters,” remarked Mary Gates of Dudley, center president who also contributed over 105 hours to preparing the center for its grand opening. “It’s been a challenge getting ready for our reopening, but it’s all worth it.”

Center board member Tom Cypher, East Saxton, also offered considerable praise to all the volunteers who helped get the new center ready for use. Cypher, who also serves on the tri-county AAA’s Citizens Advisory Council and a representative on the State Council on Aging for central Pennsylvania counties, said that the next project the center is studying is installing a mechanical stair lift the elderly can use to reach the second floor of the center.

“We are delighted to have a place to meet and enjoy the many senior center activities,” remarked Cypher. “The reopening of our center is a labor of love.”

Also asked about the center’s reopening was Gary Howe, Stonerstown, center vice president, who mirrored the other member’s observations.

“It’s great to have our own home again, we’re glad to be here,” he said.

Members of the center’s board of directors include: Mary Gates, president; Gary Howe, vice president; Gloria Ritchey, Saxton, treasurer; and Tom Cypher, Larry Black, Lanny Hoover, Ron Horton and Tom Chamberlain, all from the Saxton area (the center is still looking for someone to volunteer to serve as secretary).

Paid staffers include site manager Teena Thomas and Aletha Hafer, Saxton, food service worker.

The Broad Top Area Senior Citizens Center, founded in 1968, was the third center in Pennsylvania to receive Older Americans Act (OAA) funding.

For more information about joining the center, call 635-3122.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

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