Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell was joined by county legislators, state lawmakers, members of her administration and county employees for the grand opening of the fully renovated and expanded senior citizens center in Carmel.
The Carmel Friendship Center, housed in the Donald B. Smith Government Campus on Old Route 6, opened Dec. 19 after an 18-month renovation.
“This facility was once a school and now it’s a senior center – the circle of life,” said Odell to the dozens of seniors who attended the opening.
She said the challenges of the structure make the project take a little longer than anticipated.
“As a school, the building had narrow hallways and small classrooms,” she explained. “We knew that you guys wanted some space, you wanted to walk in comfort and be able to enjoy each other’s company while doing yoga, tai chi, or shooting some pool – whatever you really want to do. Now you have the space to do it. “
The bright and airy 6,000-square-foot center now includes a restaurant-sized dining room where more than 100 seniors can be served; an exercise room for yoga, tai chi and Zumba dancing; a game room with a billiard table; and a cozy sitting area where seniors can relax around a gas fireplace.
A nutrition office, Medicare counselor and case worker will also be on site.
Before the renovation, the building housed a smaller senior center and several administrative offices. During the renovation, the center was housed at the Knights of Columbus in Carmel.
“This was very high on my priority list when I took office and I know that my fellow legislators feel the same way,” said Odell. “We recognize and appreciate our seniors. They are our teachers, they’re our mentors, they’re our grandparents and they’re our neighbors.
“You guys are important to this county for everything that you’ve done and everything you continue to do with your volunteering,” she continued. “It was very important that we build you a space that you could appreciate and that you wanted to come to.”
Michael Cunningham, director of the Office for Senior Resources, noted that this was a big year for the office.
“We celebrated our 50th anniversary this year,” he said. “We also opened up – just before the year began – our Friendship Center in Philipstown. And now we are here to celebrate the opening of the Carmel Friendship Center.
“One of the worst things for seniors is isolation or loneliness,” continued Cunningham. “What we are trying to do is make sure that by offering these services, with good nutrition and a lot of activities, we prevent that. If you look at the name of this facility, we call it the Carmel Friendship Center and that’s what we’re all about.”