Senior Center breaks ground for latest renovation project

By Lynn R. Parks

Long-time member of the Nanticoke Senior Center Travis Kouts was not sure at first that the proposal to move the center into the former Seaford Golf and Country Club clubhouse instead of building a new facility was a good idea.

"Immediately, I said, 'No way,' " he said. "I wanted a new building." But on Friday, during a ceremony at the former clubhouse to mark the start of renovations to the building, Kouts said that he had changed his mind.

"Now, I see that this is the right thing to do," he said. "This is an old building, it's true" – the clubhouse was built in 1941. "But we will make it work. It's going to be great."

Kouts was among dozens of senior center members, city officials and representatives of Gillis Gilkerson, Salisbury, the contractor that is doing the renovation work, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony. Work on the renovation project started Monday.

Dwight Miller, president of Gillis Gilkerson, said that the project is expected to take about four months. Senior center director Barbara Elliott said that she expects the center to be open in June.

Plans call for a covered ramp, accessible to the handicapped, to be built on the back of the building, where the deck is now. A circular driveway will be put near the ramp so that buses can pull in, drop people off and pull out again.

The center plans to modify the front entrance so that it is under cover. A handicapped-accessible bathroom will be added on the east end of the banquet room. And what were the locker rooms will be completely gutted and transformed into a physical fitness center, with exercise equipment and handicapped-accessible bathrooms.

The senior center purchased the building from the city last year, after the city bought it from the bankrupt golf and country club. The senior center paid $624,000 for the building; the cost of renovations is expected to total about $831,000.

The senior center has raised a little more than $1 million for the $1.455 million project. Christy Pennington, who is heading up the fundraising, said Monday that the center still needs to raise $430,000.

The senior center has already spent $50,000 to renovate the former clubhouse's kitchen. The kitchen is being used to prepare meals for the senior center, which is temporarily housed in a building on U.S. 13 after moving out of the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club facility last March.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Seaford Mayor Ed Butler said that things like this don't occur in other places. "This project could not have happened in the average community," he said. "In Seaford, we pull together to do things that are better for the community. I am very proud to be a part of this city."

Butler praised city manager Dolores Slatcher and assistant city manager Charles Anderson for the work they have done to make this project work. "It took a lot of meetings to pull everything together," he said. "I think that they have met with everybody but the president of the United States."

State Rep. Dan Short said that the groundbreaking ceremony represented a new start for the old building. "A lot of times, government gets a bad rap," he said. "But for this to work, it took a tremendous effort, with the city playing an integral part."

Elliott said that the senior center currently has 900 members. With its new facility, she hopes that that number will double.

"My goal is to have two buses running every day, taking people on trips and to activities," she said. "I am really excited." Longtime senior center member and volunteer Harry McIlvain echoed her sentiments. "It's going to be very nice here," he said. "I am very pleased."

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