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Centre Region Active Adult Center Celebrates Grand Opening of New Location

by on January 29, 2017 5:00 AM

Formerly known as the Centre Region Senior Center, the Active Adult Center has come a long way, literally and figuratively.

It started out in 1953 as the Senior Citizens Club, meeting in the parish house of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. In 1976 it became the Centre Region Senior Citizens Center, a joint venture of the Borough of State College and the Centre County Office of Aging.

Ten years later, the Centre Region Parks and Recreation Authority Board became administrator of the program and it moved to the Fraser Garage complex.

In the fall of 2015, the center moved to a temporary space in the Nittany Mall and on Jan. 13 the center, renamed the Active Adult Center, moved into its new 7,000 square foot space in suite 990 of the mall, near the interior entrance to Sears.

On Friday, center members and many of the people who made the move happen gathered for a grand opening.

"It's a very happy day for us," said Pam Salokangas, Centre Region Parks and Rec director.

The new space includes multi-purpose rooms, a dance and exercise studio, reception area, offices and a commercial kitchen. Center supervisor Cindy Stahlman said the move to the mall, and now a larger space with more amenities, has attracted more participants in the center and its programs.

In January 2015, when it was still in downtown State College, the center had 125 active seniors participating in 1,457 activities. Last January, after moving to the temporary space in the mall, that increased to 164 members and 2,500 activities for the month.

Before this month was out, the numbers had climbed again to 210 participants and 2,800 activities. In total, the center serves about 3,000 Centre Region residents.

Free parking and a controlled environment are keys to the mall location's success.

"Just being here at the mall, it’s a great place to be," Stahlman said. "The parking is great. It’s a nice environment. You’re safe, you’re not going to be out on the sidewalks."

The new center is the result of collaboration between Centre Region Council of Government (CRCOG) members and Centre County, which together have invested $270,000 in the first phase of the project. 

Jim Steff, CRCOG executive director, said the project is an example of the willingness of local governments and community members to work together toward a common goal for the public good, something, he noted, that isn't common in other areas.

"The elected officials in the townships and the borough see the advantage of working with each other, neighbors helping neighbors do good things," Steff said. "The elected officials from Centre Region and Centre County government have all agreed to pay the rent here, pay the operating expenses and staffing expenses. To have that number of elected officials agree to do a singular thing, it’s common in our area but it’s uncommon throughout Pennsylvania."

County Commissioner Michael Pipe said officials recognized the value the center will have now and in the future.

"Truly this is an investment of not just tax dollars, but also energy and hours of staff time into something that will serve this community for many years to come," Pipe said. "We at the county really believe in empowering and supporting our elder population. There are so many people in the community that find a lot of joy and friendship here in the center."

The center also has received support from the local community. Mall manager Polly Welch and her staff have worked closely with CRPR and center staff to accommodate the move. 

"Polly and her crew have really stretched their financial responsibilities beyond what we anticipated them to be," Steff said.

"While in the temporary space I got to know a lot of the members of the Active Adult Center," Welch said. "They are an amazing group of people and I can honestly say making them a member of our Nittany Mall family has been a blessing."

A partnership with the Builders Association of Central PA helped to make the commercial kitchen a reality much sooner than expected. It was initially planned for phase 2 of the project, but a $65,774 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging helped speed the process. Builders Association members then helped to make it even more affordable.

Your Building Center provided cabinets at cost and S&A Homes handled the kitchen installation. Stahlman estimated that the partnership with the Builders Association saved about $20,000.

Mike's Video, TV & Appliance also provided the appliances at cost.

The center serves meals each day it is open (Monday through Friday) and previous locations didn't have a kitchen.

State Rep. Scott Conklin attended the grand opening and he also credited the center as a testament to the local community.

"I’ve been blessed to see many things in my life, and I’ve never seen a community with so many individuals, for no pay, work so hard to make sure every single person… is made to feel warm and taken care of," he said.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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