Harlem seniors have a new place to hang out now that the city's first senior center is open.
Eva Gene Harris, a Harlem native who regularly attends biweekly lunch and bingo sessions held at the Harlem Woman's Club, cut the ribbon at the recent ceremony at the facility at Harlem City Park.
"I think it is perfect," Harris said, before heading inside for a seat at a bingo table.
The roughly $550,000 building, paid for mainly with state grants, includes a large dining/meeting room, fully-equipped kitchen, classroom, game room, TV room, computer room, card room and an office.
Before taking her place at a bingo table, Martha Bennett quickly toured the center.
"This is so nice," Bennett said as she wandered from room to room. "This is super."
Seniors have been meeting at the Harlem Woman's Club for lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tuesday luncheons usually include bingo, while Thursday meetings sometimes feature guest speakers or special programs.
City Councilwoman Robin Root, who oversees the senior program, said the new building will allow for expanded senior programs and activities.
"I would just say how privileged and fortunate we are, of course in this country and in this state, but most importantly the way we look at it in this city," Mayor Bobby Culpepper said. "This building is another milestone for Harlem. We feel like it ... is just the beginning."
Jeff Asmann, who oversees the Columbia County Senior Center at Euchee Creek, said the kitchen is twice as big as the one in his 15-year-old building.
"This is a very nice facility," Asmann said. "It is laid out very well. It has a residential feel to it, which is good."
The kitchen appliances were added when the building did not cost as much as expected.
"All the appliances in the kitchen are like a bonus," Culpepper said. "It came in under budget. So we got this wonderful kitchen and all the stainless steel appliances and everything."
But many of the other rooms are empty. The city is accepting donations for the center to include sofas and chairs, tables, desks, computers, games and books. Anyone interested in making a donation should call Harlem City Hall at (706) 556-0043.
Amanda Cash, who works for the Harlem Library, said the library will have a bookshelf in the center.
"We're going to do like an outreach program with the seniors so they can come and get books here," Cash said.
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