By Luanne Williams, for the SNAP
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 —
Western Stanly County seniors will soon have a new gathering place, as Locust City Council member Harry Fletcher announced the upcoming opening of an activity center at 213 Town Centre Dr., on property that once housed the branch library and council chambers.
“Our aim is to provide a safe, fun facility for seniors,” said Fletcher, whose seven-member senior services committee has been working on the project for at least three years.
He told the rest of the Locust City Council on Thursday night that a very generous anonymous donor agreed to pay rent for the facility, which owner Terry Whitley had reduced to an affordable rate.
“The community is lucky to have somebody to step up to the plate and do this,” Fletcher said of the donation. He added that the next step for West Stanly Community Center Inc., which has already applied for a 501(c)3 non-profit designation, is to determine what activities it can offer to attract seniors.
“Nothing is off the table. From card games — some people like to play Bridge, Bingo, maybe take a yoga class ... anything to get folks to come in,” Fletcher said.
The committee will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the new location to review a list of potential activities and continue planning for an official launch around the first week of January 2014.
Fletcher said they initially referred to the anticipated facility as the Locust Senior Center, but later decided to broaden the name geographically and also by changing “senior” to “community.”
“It’s not just Locust. We’ll have people from Oakboro, from Stanfield and probably Midland, too,” he said, explaining that the services would mainly target the senior population.
According to 2010 U.S. Census figures, more than 15 percent of Locust’s population is 65 or older, up more than 60 percent since 2000.
Eventually, Fletcher would like to see the community center host the congregate nutrition site for seniors, which now serves weekday lunches at 101 Officer Jeff Shelton Dr. He said moving the program would alleviate parking issues near Locust Elementary School and give seniors multiple reasons to visit the new center.
Fletcher doesn’t view West Stanly Community Center as competition for the Stanly County Senior Center in Albemarle. He said there are plenty of older folks in Locust who would love to take advantage of services, but can’t necessarily make the drive to the county seat. In fact, he anticipates seeking help from the Stanly County Commission as soon as the facility is up and running.
“Now that we’ve got something we can hang our hat on, I feel confident that first of the year I’ll be putting together a presentation for the Stanly County commissioners and saying, ‘Hey, guys, here’s what we’re doing. We need some help,’ ” he said.
The new center will need volunteers to run its programming, and Fletcher said early additions to the property, which will likely get a fresh coat of paint, will include a coffee maker and refrigerator.
Look for Senior Services Committee members at the Locust Christmas Festival on Nov. 30, where they will be handing out fliers about the new center.
Luanne Williams is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.