BERTRAND — It took the Young at Heart Senior Center in Bertrand almost 15 years to raise the funds to build their own facility, and in less than a month supporters hope to be moving into the new center in downtown Bertrand.
The Young at Heart Senior Center has been part of Bertrand since the 1970s, but it has never had its own location. Seniors have been gathering at the American Legion Building to take part in the activities the center provides.
One of the members of the board of directors, Leland Anderson, decided more than a decade ago that the seniors needed a place to call their own.
“Almost 15 years ago, he decided that it was kind of silly that we were in this building, using the Legion’s building, and we needed a building of our own. He got a couple of other board members on the same path with him, and they decided to start fundraising,” said Coni Park, the center’s manger. “It’s taken them this much time to get all the funds raised because they have done every ounce of the work themselves to get the money raised for it.”
Board members organized fundraisers such as soup suppers and barbecues, and they recently began applying for and receiving grants to fund their cause. Phelps Memorial Health Center also donated tables and chairs for the new senior center.
The center has been able to raise $325,000 for the more-than-$350,000 building. The board plans to continue raising funds for the cost and upkeep of the building, as well as more than $40,000 for kitchen appliances and furniture for a lounge area.
The board plans to have a baked potato bar fundraiser from 5-7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the American Legion. Donations will be accepted. It also will participate in Phelps County Community Foundation’s give2Grow fundraising day Nov. 16.
“Finally, this last year, about a year and a half ago, when they felt like they had all the funds to actually put up the building, they took bids for the building and started to break ground. And since they broke ground, it’s gone fairly quickly,” Park said.
At age 102, Anderson continues to drive every day to Bertrand to watch the progress on the building.
“This is kind of Leland’s baby. This was kind of his idea. ... He just grins from ear to ear every time he sits down there watching them,” Park said.
The new center, located next to the American Legion in downtown Bertrand, will feature a large open area where seniors will participate in the activities the center provides, including a homemade meal at lunchtime, an exercise class, crafting, billiards, educational sessions, quilting, puzzles and health clinics. There will be an office, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a pantry and storage room.
“It’s a pretty open space so, hopefully, it won’t take them very long to finish up,” Park said.
Park is most excited for the center’s cook, Tonya Mayo, to have a larger kitchen where it is easier to regulate the temperature.
“As silly as it sounds, we have separate heating and air conditioning units in the kitchen and the main area and the hallway. I’m actually looking forward to my cook, actually being comfortable,” Park said.
The building should be move-in ready by Nov. 1. Once the move has been made to the new center, Park said, the plan is to have an open house. The center is currently open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and the board is considering opening four or five days a week.
Since Park began working at the Young at Heart Senior Center in May, she has been posting updates about the new building’s progress on Facebook. The support and the feedback from the community has been nothing but positive.
“I set up that Facebook page when I first started here, and it’s been amazing. Even people that used to live in Bertrand and don’t live in Bertrand anymore love watching the progress of the building,” she said. “They’ve heard the fundraising going on, and they’ve heard the conversations about it, but to see the physical building actually becoming real — it’s great. People just love it.”