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The Senior Center is open: Crowds gathers to welcome long-awaited day

Hundreds of seniors — along with a myriad of local residents and town, county and state officials — gathered to celebrate the long-awaited opening of Jonesborough’s new Senior Center Monday — a day the entire region had been looking toward since its ground-breaking in 2012.
“It’s beautiful,” said Frances Campbell, a member of the Jonesborough Senior Center. “It’s bigger than I thought it would be.”
Filled with large, airy rooms and soaring ceilings, the new center promises area seniors a more more modern space in which to pursue a myriad activities, from crafting to fitness.
“The feedback has been really good so far,” said Senior Center Director Mary Sanger as she welcomed members Monday morning. “They are really excited.”
The grand opening event featured the Center’s main floor, which includes about 14,000 square feet of finished space. The building’s lower level, which will house fitness and game rooms, as well as an onsite wellness clinic, is still being completed by town staff and should be ready sometime in early 2016.
“I’m trying to be done by the end of January,” Town Operations Manager Craig Ford said, adding that with the 90-day temporary certificate of occupancy the town has been granted, he has extra time if he needs it to make sure the downstairs project matches the quality of the upstairs.
As for the Dec. 7 opening, Ford expressed his pleasure at finally seeing a completion to a major project that has been plaguing the town for more than two years.
“It’s certainly a really good feeling to see a light at the end of the tunnel and know its not the train,” Craig joked. “We had so many things to do last week just to be able to open today, and there were a lot of late hours.
“But just look around. Everybody is smiling. I think this is a really honorable thing that the board of mayor and aldermen have done for the seniors in our community.”
The morning’s events included music by the Jonesborough Novelty Band, hors d’oeuvres and refreshments from Food City of Jonesborough and Fatz catering and a grand opening ceremony and flag dedication to make everything official.
“This benefits the whole community,” said County Mayor Dan Eldridge, who attended both the opening ceremony and ribbon cutting.
Mayor Kelly Wolfe stressed during the opening that the day was definitely dedicated to seniors throughout the region.
“This day is about our seniors,” Wolfe said. “We’re here to celebrate our seniors.”
Wolfe praised town staff, specifically noting the work of Ford, Town Administrator Bob Browning and Town Building Inspector J.W. Greene, who were instrumental in completing the project.
Citing the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s recent “Wizard of Oz” production, Wolfe said the project had played out somewhat like that famous trip to the Emerald City.
“We haven’t seen any yellow bricks, thank goodness,” Wolfe said. “But, oh boy, what a long road it has been.”
Still, Wolfe stressed that as beautiful as the building is, it is not really what makes the center a town treasure.
“This is a new building,” the mayor said. “And yes, it’s much, much larger than the old one. But the building is not what makes it special — it’s the people who come here and share stories and life experiences with one another that make it special.”