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County finishes senior center renovations

The county has officially finished its senior center renovation, a project that has been ongoing for many months.

The overhaul of the building located at 42 Highway 56 North in Swainsboro was much needed, according to director Beth Gibson. To her knowledge, the current building is more than 50 years old, having been built in the 1970s, and has had little upkeep work done to it throughout the years.

She came aboard as director when the County of Emanuel took over the center in 2019. She says discussions about improving the space date back to the start of her tenure, if not before.

“The overall goal of this project I believe was to improve the looks of the center,” Gibson explained. “We wanted to create a better atmosphere for our ‘wise ones,’ as I call them, or the seniors who frequent the center.”

Construction began back in November 2021 with some $1.2 million being allocated to the cause, mostly funded through grant monies.

The project closed a few weeks ago, and those who patronize the center will be pleased to note the changes that have taken place. This includes a freshly painted exterior, new paint on the inside, new furniture, and more.

“We don’t want to give away all our secrets. We want the seniors to come out and see the changes for themselves, but we’re definitely excited to say the least. This is our home away from home, and because the renovations were a long time needed, we are excited to be back and in a building better than before.”

The pause in services Gibson alludes to were the result of the pandemic, similar to many other places like the senior center that provide services in a group setting.

“During COVID, we had to restructure activities since we were not able to meet in person. We held outdoor activities, like drive-up bingo, pea-shelling and chatting, and outside Tai Chi classes,” Gibson continued. “As soon as it was safe, we resumed indoor activities in our ‘new normal’ way.”

Fortunately, the senior center was able to keep its Meals on Wheels going the entire duration of the pandemic, an act of commitment that was greatly appreciated by area seniors who couldn’t otherwise get out.

“We did alter how meals were delivered to keep everyone safe. We did this by adding more safety measures to limit the amount of in-person contact. Overall, I’m glad we were able to keep that service going.”

The senior center (which is open Tuesday through Thursday for in-person gatherings while Mondays and Fridays are for drive-through pick-ups) has a wide variety of offerings that are attractive and helpful for seniors. In addition to the bingo, pea-shelling, and Tai Chi classes Gibson mentioned, the center also offers exercise classes, meals, and a setting to interact with people in like places of life.

As fate would have it, safety concerns related to the pandemic tapered off near the time construction began. Fortunately, services did not come to a halt; instead, seniors met at the 4-H center, thanks to the willingness of Extension agent Jakyn Tyson.

Look for details about a grand opening planned for the near future.

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