PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Senior Center isn’t gone; it’s just moved somewhere else nearby.
The building that housed the center was demolished last week to accommodate the construction of Grace Place, and the center is now located in the basement of the former Grube Hospital boiler room.
The center’s director, Tracy Miller, said she loves the new space, which has been open for two weeks and offers advantages over the former center.
Miller said she’s been the director for seven years, and the new center is everything — and more — that the Jefferson County Area Agency on Aging (JCAAA) had hoped to achieve.
JCAAA’s mission is to assist older people to remain active as citizens in their community.
It doesn’t look like a boiler room, nor does it look like a basement, Miller said, and the full windows keeps it from looking like a basement.
The JCAAA hopes that once Grace Place is completed, its tenants will take advantage of the senior center, which will be literally in their backyard, she said. The new dining room will hold more than 100 people at one time.
Miller said the Pine Street Cenior Center was located upstairs in the former hospital for nearly 15 years.
The original Punxsy senior center was located at Wellington Heights and later moved to the former Grube Hospital building when it outgrew that location.
Miller said JCAAA sold the building five years ago to the Jefferson Area Lutheran Social Ministry.
“We’ve been waiting for five years for our new senior center, and finally it has arrived,” she said.
The new space has multiple rooms, including an an exercise room so seniors who want to exercise can do so in a more private setting.
Charlie Hoeh, a JCAAA volunteer, said the new center is a nice improvement over the old space, where anyone who would like to participate in any of the programs had to climb up a flight of 14 steps
at the main Pine Street location just to enter the building.
The new space is bright with central heat and air conditioning, Hoeh said. There’s also a separate television room with several couches that won’t interfere with other activities taking place.
Miller said some of the other improvements include a larger kitchen with cupboards, a computer room with new up to date machines and brand new restrooms.
“I’m hoping that more people will come and take advantage of the services we offer, especially since the high steps will no longer be an obstacle to attending events or coming here to eat lunch every day,” she said. “We still have our ADA ramp and elevator, but now, there are only four steps to get to the center instead of 14.”
Miller said the center was closed for three weeks due to construction.
The day the center was supposed to move into the basement, there was a heavy rain the night before, which flooded a portion of the new center and ruined some of the new drywall and carpeting, she said.
Miller said the seniors and the staff are excited about a courtyard that will be constructed outside the dining room, which will have large windows overlooking the courtyard and the apartment building.
The courtyard will also be used for picnics, without having to leave the grounds, Miller said. The courtyard also lends itself to outdoor Bingo, which continues to be the center’s most popular activity.
Anyone age 60 and over who in Jefferson County may participate in the wide range of programs that are funded by JCAAA at its various centers throughout the county.
The JCAAA is the local representative for the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, and it offers many services and programs designed to keep older citizens active and independent.
For more information about programs offered, and the times the centers are open, call 800-852-8036 or check the JCAAA Web site at www.jcaaa.org .