Expansion in works at new Niles senior center

Published 10:43 am Friday, April 9, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- An unanticipated popularity of the Senior Citizens' Center has the center's board of directors looking into an expansion after only a year and a half at its new location.
The center has been operating out of its facility at 1109 Bell Road since September 2002 and an increasing number of senior visitors, limited program and storage space and an undersized parking lot have made it apparent to the board more space is needed.
Senior Center board member Marge Durm-Hiatt said the usage has more then quadrupled since moving locations from the old building located at 16 N. Third St.
Board member Linda Klute said the current usage may be even more than that with about 1,000 visitors per week.
Klute said she thought they had plenty of space when the current building was constructed, but the amount of active seniors that have responded to the center has been overwhelming.
Thursday's birthday bingo activity was a prime example of the increase in usage.
Klute, who was also a volunteer at the old center, said they used to draw about three women for birthday bingo when it started in the old building.
On Thursday, there was not an open space in the parking lot as over 40 seniors gathered in the activity room for an April birthday celebration with bingo, cake and ice cream.
With multiple activities planned on a daily basis, the center is very tight on program space.
That was also apparent on Thursday, as a computer training course was being held simultaneously in one of the center's administrative offices.
Klute credits the center's popularity to the new building and location, an active group of seniors and a variety of different programs.
Some of the diverse activities include going on group trips, line dancing, Tai Chi, exercise, scrapbooking, card games and a cancer support support group.
In addition to the program offerings, Hayden said the friendships and companionship provided by visiting the center is the most important benefit.
Durm-Hiatt said the expansion plans are still very tentative.
She said the board is looking at adding rooms for programs and storage and hopes to obtain some property near the center for a parking lot expansion. Big Lots is currently allowing them to use its parking lot across the street for overflow.
The center is funded by a county wide millage that distributes the money to the six established senior centers in Berrien County. Durm-Hiatt said they received about $190,000 last year.
The center obtains additional money for programs through fundraising and donations and volunteers also help the center to save money.
Klute said the center has a goal of raising $500,000 to fund the expansion, to help pay off the current building, and to have additional money for operating expenses.
Durm-Hiatt said the board is currently looking into different possibilities for funding the expansion.
Anyone in interested in donating or volunteering, should call the Niles-Buchanan Senior Citizens' Center at (269) 683-9380.