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City of Gainesville/Alachua County Senior Recreation Center celebrates its one-year anniversary

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Quilting Bee members Ann Huffaker and Linda Cowell working on the groups latest quilt.” credit=”Ariana Lipkin / WUFT News

The City of Gainesville/Alachua County Senior Recreation Center celebrated its one-year anniversary Thursday. The center has grown to about 3,900 members and is home to many social and fitness programs.

Thursday’s ceremony included speeches from former Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Moore Chestnut and Gainesville City Commissioner Todd Chase.

The celebration included tours of the classrooms and the fitness center, and speeches discussing the senior center’s community impact.

George Smith, member of the senior center’s advisory board, said the center is important for seniors because it provides educational and social services in one place. Questionnaires are distributed on an ongoing basis to ensure that the interests of seniors in the community are being tended to, such as information on enrolling in health care programs.

The Senior Recreation Center offers fitness programs ranging from zumba to yoga, Smith said. It also offers programs “for the mind and the brain.”

“We have crafting classes here, quilting, art, a variety of programs, plus the educational programs, plus the center houses people that come in and provide advice,” Smith said.

“Our guild has grown since we came here which means that more seniors are having an opportunity to join us and learn how to preserve this heritage of quilting,” said Linda Cowell, member of the Quilting Bee. “It’s been a wonderful thing.”

“We want to see the center so that it looks like a beehive, with people coming in, having programs, [both] educational and social,” Smith said. “I think it’s a great success.”

Anthony Clarizio, executive director of ElderCare of Alachua County, said he was amazed by the number of people who have joined the center. “We really thought in the first year that we would have about 1,000 members, and we really just cannot believe the amount that show up and use the center,” Clarizio said.

About 200 members use the center on a daily basis, amounting to about 1,000 seniors a week. “People are overwhelmed, impressed, delighted, because really the center started as an idea that really was hard to get launched because it took a lot of money to build this building,” Clarizio said.

The amount of socialization that happens, he said, affects the mood. “This place offers seniors the ability to have 3,800 members be part of their social network if that’s what they choose,” Clarizio said. “You name it, we do it.”

There are about 30 different clubs, including fitness, arts and crafts, bingo, book clubs, and hold ’em poker clubs, he said. The senior recreation center provides a home for senior groups that were meeting all over Alachua County, and has boosted memberships for those groups as a result. All of the programs are led by volunteers.

“That’s a critical piece because that also tells us that people in this community care about seniors,” Clarizio said.

“When most people think about a senior recreation center, I think they immediately think about a community center, and the stigma that goes along with a community center,” he said. “We have an environment here that is really as multicultural, multi-socioeconomic as you would imagine it to be. We’ve got people here who are poor and we’ve got people here who are very rich.”

Katherine Kallergis edited this story online.

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