'Center of Excellence': Long-Awaited Senior Facility Dedicated
With the snip of giant scissors and a burst of confetti-loaded balloons, the Moore County Senior Enrichment Center was launched Monday.
Hundreds of visitors flocked to the renovated and refurbished facility on U.S. 15-501 near Eastwood for the grand opening ceremony and to get their first look at the $1.5 million addition to the county.
"We will be a center of excellence," said a confident Terri Prots, director of the Moore County Department of Aging. "We'll make sure of that."
Her department has moved into the center from cramped quarters near downtown Carthage. The center also provides a variety of facilities for older residents, including a fitness room, classrooms and meeting space.
Speakers mentioned at least three supporters unable to be present for the ceremony, held beneath blue skies and a warm sun.
Two of those supporters, former County Commissioner Robert S. Ewing and Mary Morgan, mother of former state Rep. Richard T. Morgan, have died since planning began for the center. The third supporter, Robert Sirotek, is now a resident of Quail Haven and was not able to attend but did send his wife as his representative.
"Bob is not here physically, but he is here," said Ewing's widow, Katherine Ewing, gesturing upward as she spoke briefly to the gathering. "He is grinning from ear to ear."
Her husband heavily promoted the center during his service on the Board of Commissioners and after his retirement from the board more than two years ago.
Morgan likewise said his mother would approve of the center.
"I know she's up there smiling down on us and hoping her best for the people who can use this facility now and in the future," Morgan said. "I look up in the sky. I know that my mom would be proud."
Morgan secured $1 million in state grants enabling the county to buy the property on U.S. 15-501 about two miles north of Pinehurst near Eastwood. Morgan was serving as co-speaker of the state House of Representatives when he found funding to make the purchase.
'Dreams Take Long Time'
Morgan recalled that it was Robert Sirotek who first called his attention to the county's need for a senior center. Sirotek brought an architect's drawing of a proposed center for Morgan's scrutiny and told about the dream of Moore County retirees to have a senior center.
At the time, Morgan set aside those plans. But later, when he was in a position to help, Morgan said he pulled out the plan and went to work finding state grant money.
Obtaining the grants, he said, was the easy part.
"What hasn't been easy is all the blood, sweat and tears to put it together and make it happen," he said.
Several speakers made reference to the beauty of the weather during the noon ceremony.
"It's a beautiful day in Moore County; its a beautiful day in Eastwood, my hometown," said Commissioner Tim Lea, who introduced Katherine Ewing, then introduced Morgan as "the man who made this dream a reality."
Lea is the commissioner representative on the Aging Advisory Council.
The county appropriated more than $400,000 to renovate the building, and the overall cost was supplemented with gifts from individuals and nonprofit organizations.
Myron Dice, chairman of Moore County Resources for Seniors, reminded everyone that the dream of a senior center was begun in the early 1990s while Suzanne Cameron Black was director of aging. The nonprofit he now chairs was formed to design, plan and find funding for the project, with Sirotek among its leaders.
"Sometimes your dreams take a long time becoming reality," Dice said. "It was a long time getting the commitment from the Moore County Board of Commissioners for it to happen."
When planning began, Moore was one of only three counties in North Carolina without a senior center, although the county has one of the largest percentages of older residents in the state.
"Most of that population does not go to country clubs," Dice added in a sly dig at former critics who said the center was not needed because of the availability of many country clubs. "We are proud of this day."
Joan Pellettier, director of the Triangle J Area Agency on Aging, called the facility "a beautiful center." She said that older adults make "remarkable contributions to the community," but others need assistance through services provided at a senior center and through the Department of Aging.
Pellettier estimated that 33 percent of Moore County's population will be above age 60 by the year 2030.
Leslee Breen, senior center development specialist with the N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services, also said that the state has a rapidly growing population of older adults. She said that senior centers provide services that help these Americans remain independent.
Prots welcomed the gathering, Commissioners' Chairman Colin McKenzie introduced guests, and state Sen. Harris Blake gave the opening prayer.
The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the official opening of the center. Morgan wielded the scissors for the big ribbon held by local and visiting officials.
Visitors were invited to remain for tours of the spacious facilities and to enjoy refreshments and entertainment. The Vision Band, sponsored by WLHC Life 103.1 FM, provided live music.
Afternoon features included a golf swing analysis by PGA Professional Tom Prots, Al Mullenbach's art demonstration, a demonstration by the Ballroom Dancers of the Sandhills, and a table tennis demonstration.
Parking space is limited at the center, but sheriff's deputies and other county personnel directed everyone to parking areas in front of and beside the building.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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