The county Office on Aging has opened a new senior center in the east Columbia branch library, part of a two-year reorganization intended to improve service for the county's growing elderly population.
The center, which opened Nov. 9 but will hold grand opening ceremonies tomorrow, offers recreation and and educational programs, Spanish classes, bird watching, a peer support group, health screenings, arts and crafts, and a daily lunch.
The center, at 6600 Cradlerock Way in east Columbia, will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except holidays and weekends. It can accommodate 105 people.
NTC Sophie Dailey, 76, a resident of Terrace Run Apartments, a senior citizen complex around the corner from the center, said she enjoys the programs and companionship at the center.
"A group of us from the apartments meet here for lunch a good many times during the week, depending on our schedules," she said. "We are doing beautiful crafts, Christmas ornaments and jewelry."
Senior citizens also read to children in the library from time to time, she said.
"We all have things to do now. It's just a wonderful time," said Mrs. Dailey.
The center is part of a long-range plan to help the county's 18,000 senior citizens that also includes new west county and Savage senior centers and moving the Elkridge senior center from United Baptist Church to the Elkridge branch library.
The Elkridge center is under construction and should be completed by early spring. The west county and Savage centers are still in the planning stage.
The planned September opening of the east Columbia center was delayed two months by minor construction problems, said Starr Sowers, director of operations for the Office on Aging.
It "will provide a much-needed senior center in the east Columbia area," she said.
"The center will provide a variety of services to persons 60 and older. We are excited about this innovative opportunity to be able to co-program with the library and local schools in this community-based center," Ms. Sowers said.
CC Pleasants, director of the east Columbia center, was previously the program coordinator at Florence Bain Senior Center.
"We are smaller than the Florence Bain Center, but we have a lot of enthusiasm," Mrs. Pleasants said.
She also said the center will benefit from its proximity to Owen Brown Middle School and Dasher Green Elementary School.
"The library is hoping to provide monthly programs for the seniors, and the schools will participate in intergenerational programs, such as craft fairs and tutorial programs," she said. "All sorts of things are possible."
The school should benefit, too, said John Vermette, principal at Dasher Green Elementary, whose 80-member chorus is scheduled to perform at tomorrow's grand opening.
"I think it's great," he said. "Mrs. Pleasants is going to make some suggestions to us to do some intergenerational programs.
"The interest is there on our end. We are encouraged that we will be participating in a program that is mutually beneficial."
In addition to the students, County Executive Charles I. Ecker, members of the County Council and representatives from the Office on Aging are expected to attend tomorrow's ceremonies.
The center is seeking volunteers to answer phones, provide information to callers and help people with their English as part of the Chatterbox program.