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Ground-breaking ceremony to be held for new Senior Center

A ground-breaking ceremony will take place for the new Jonesborough Senior Center Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 1 p.m. at the corner of Longview and East Main Street.
“It’s a great day for Jonesborough. I applaud the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for taking very positive steps for our seniors now and in the future,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “It’s a day that has been long in coming and it optimizes our commitment to quality of life in our little town.”
Mary Gearhart, who is on the advisory board for the Senior Center, said she has pushed for many years for a new center.
“I love what they do up there,” Gearhart said of the Senior Center. “I love that place. They do so much good and they really care about the seniors and take so much time with them. (It’s a) great relationship they have with the seniors.”
When she became a member of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen a few years back, Gearhrt began working on the Senior Center and Visitor Center committees. That is when her passion grew for the Senior Center.
“I’m thrilled to death that we are going through with it. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” she said of the new center. “We need it so badly.” They have simply outgrown the original space.
Wolfe said the current center, which is approximately 5,000 square feet, was an old RV sales center. He said the adaptation became out-of-date 10 to 12 years ago, due to the number of senior citizens who became members.
“It is really something that has served us well,” he said.
The membership for the senior center has grown from about 500 to almost 2,000 in the past decade.
“They like what we are offering there. Obviously they have done a remarkable job keeping people busy,” Gearhart said. “The seniors are tickled to death to have a place to go that will have so much more.”
The funding for the building was made possible through the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
“We are classified as a rural community and that allows us to borrow money from the Department of Agriculture at a very low rate and over a little bit longer of a term than usual to help with our cash flow,” Wolfe said. “We can afford to build a senior center because this program makes it affordable for us.”
The new senior center will cost $2.3 million to build. Weather permitting it should be completed in eight to 12 months.
“We have tried to be very smart about this project and allow the ability to expand in the future, while being very budget conscious in our initial construction,” he said.
The new two-story building has the capability of having up to 25,000 square feet, which Wolfe said should meet the community’s needs for many decades to come.
The building will be a brick structure with a metal roof and PVC or cement boards for the trim on the outside of the center.
A commercial kitchen, which was originally a part of the blue prints, has been eliminated for the time being.
“That was eliminated for now, due to a higher than anticipated cost for construction. The footprint of the kitchen has been factored in and can be added later on when the funds become available,” he said.
The two-story structure will have an elevator, exercise space, dining area, meeting rooms, computer rooms, classrooms and plenty of office space for the Senior Center staff.
Wolfe said since it has been proven with the Booker T. Washington School that town crews working with inmate labor can produce a very nice product. Such a collaberation remains an option for the Senior Center.
In terms of furnishing the new building, Wolfe said a Senior Fund was established with monies collected during fundraisers that the senior center holds throughout the year.
“It is our intention for some of those funds to be used to help furnish the new senior center,” Wolfe said.
There will be some additional fundraising held, as well as some auctions in the future, Gearhart said.