Senior Center relaunches building fund campaign

By Lynn R. Parks

The Nanticoke Senior Center in Seaford has embarked on a new fundraising campaign. Christy Pennington, a consultant with Horizon Philanthropic, Lewes, is leading the effort to raise $2.37 million for a new life enhancement center. The center will be built on seven acres that has been donated to the senior center by the city of Seaford. The parcel is located in the Ross Business Park, not far from the Ross Plantation. At Tuesday's celebration of the center's 38th birthday, Pennington told members of the senior center that she would like to see ground broken for the new construction by the end of the summer. Construction could take as little as six months, she said. For 10 years, the senior center, with 900 members, has been housed in the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club, on Virginia Avenue. The contract between the two organizations expires in March 2010, giving the center just about a year to find other quarters. "We really need to have other arrangements made by next March," said board president Lora Schuler. "You have been here at the Boys and Girls Club for 10 years, and it has worked," Pennington told the members. "But both organizations are growing. And you'll be able to do so much more in your own facility." Under its arrangement with the Boys and Girls Club, the senior center has use of the facility on weekdays until 2:30 p.m. With its own building, the senior center will be able to be open seven days a week, morning through evening. In addition, it will be able to rent out rooms in the center to earn income, something it can't do now.

The 11,000-square-foot center will have an exercise room, card and game rooms, a technology center, a kitchen and dining area and meeting rooms. Pennington said that the center is working on an agreement with the Methodist Manor House to allow members to use the Manor House pool. A task force charged with planning construction of a new senior center was first established in December 2005, by then Mayor Dan Short. In February 2007, the senior center board agreed to hire Bloom Consulting, Wilmington, to head up the fundraising effort. "That didn't work out as they had hoped," said Pennington, who lives in Seaford. "It wasn't a good fit." The board had to start over and hire a new consulting firm, Pennington said. Having a local consultant, she added, "gives more of a home feel." As part of its fundraising campaign, the senior center is boosting its public relations, making sure that the community is aware of all the programs it offers. It recently launched a newsletter, the Generations Herald, that focuses on its activities and services. Those services include the center's homebound meal program, which last year served more than 19,000 meals to senior citizens who can't leave their homes. Volunteers provide transportation to senior citizens who need to go to doctor's appointments or to the grocery store, and workers can refer senior citizens to appropriate state and social agencies. "I think that we are the best kept secret in town," said Schuler. "We are really trying to get out in the community." The senior center is also planning fundraisers, including a program through which members of the community can buy plants to be put in Kiwanis Park. The plants will be set out on Arbor Day, April 24, by volunteers from the senior center and members of an area Daisy troop. The center will also hold a gospel concert Saturday, May 16, at St. John's United Methodist Church, Seaford.

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