Ground broken on new senior center

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2022

Expected to open at fairgrounds by fall

ROME TOWNSHIP — “Let’s grab a shovel and let the building begin,” Lawrence County Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. said to the crowd gathered at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds on Thursday.

A groundbreaking was taking place for the new Lawrence County Senior Center, to be located behind the grandstand along County Road 107.

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It was a long-awaited day for seniors in the county’s eastern end. Funding for the new center was first secured in 2018 from the state legislature.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, movement on the project had been held up longer than anticipated.

“Good things come to those who wait,” Lawrence County Commission president DeAnna Holliday said. “And this has been a long time in the making.”

Sybene-Chesapeake Senior Center director Darlene Green and Lawrence County Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. unveil the design for the new Lawrence County Senior Center at the groundbreaking for the building at the county fairgrounds in Rome Township on Thursday. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

The center will serve as the new home for the Sybene-Chesapeake Senior Center, currently located in a modular unit next to the Chesapeake Community Center.

Holliday said, upon being elected commissioner, one of the first things she heard from Hayes was about his work with seniors at that center and the need for a new space.

“So everyone jumped on board and joined his efforts,” she said.

Holliday credited former State Rep. Ryan Smith, who represented the county at the time, for securing the funding, as well as his successor, Jason Stephens, for keeping things moving.

Holliday said the building will be multifunctional and can be used during the fair, as well by Ohio University, who will offer classes there.

The university served as the financial agent in administering the funding for the project.

“So it’s covering a lot of ground,” Holliday said. “And it will show how important our seniors are, not just to me and the commission, but the people of Lawrence County. This is a big opportunity to show the love you have in the county.”

Ohio University Proctorville Center outreach coordinator Stephanie Burcham speaks at the groundbreaking (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Commissioner Colton Copley, the newest member of the commission, credited his fellow commissioners for their work on the project.

“And I’m proud to be here today and proud to be a part of this building,” he said. “The two commissioners really played an important role in securing this from the very beginning. I appreciate how passionate they are about our seniors.”

Hayes concluded the commission’s remarks by also crediting commissioner Bill Pratt, who died in 2018.

“He was a big part of this and a good friend and I don’t want to forget him,” Hayes said.

Stephanie Burcham, coordinator of outreach activities for Ohio University’s Proctorville Center, said she was looking forward to what the center would bring to the area.

“I can’t imagine all the wonderful things that are going to happen here,” she said. “It is with great pride that we are a part of this.”

She also pointed to the center’s location, conveniently across the road from the Wyngate at RiversEdge senior living community and the Proctor’s Landing senior apartments.

Darlene Green, director of the Sybene-Chesapeake Center, said her members were excited that the big day had come and they were looking forward to moving into the center by November.

“Oh, it’s fantastic,” she said, noting that the new building will seat 200 people and be much larger than their current location.

Green said this would allow for more activities, such as hosting a senior choir, offering line dancing classes, crafts and would provide a home for their monthly community luncheons.