‘Long time coming:’ Columbiana opens new senior center
Published 11:43 am Monday, October 5, 2015
By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer
COLUMBIANA – City and county leaders, business owners and residents packed the new Columbiana Senior Center for a long-awaited grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 2.
“This is a day that we’ve been waiting on for a long time,” Columbiana Mayor Stancil Handley said. “This is so beautiful.”
After meeting at the recreation building for years, seniors will gather at the 4,200-square-foot center at 110 Mildred St. for weekly activities and meals.
“I feel very overwhelmed,” Columbiana Senior Center Director Ali Conn Payne said after the ribbon cutting. “It’s been amazing to watch all of these people come together and make this big thing happen. I feel lucky I’ve gotten to be part of it.”
Payne, who was hired by the city as the center’s director Aug. 1, said the groundbreaking for the project was held nearly a year ago, but planning started much earlier.
“This has been a project that’s been talked about for 10-plus years,” Payne said.
Funding for the nearly $700,000 project came from the city, county, Shelby County Health Foundation and grants, City Clerk and Treasurer Mark Frey said.
“The city of Columbiana did not go into debt to do this,” Frey said. “It’s something we can all be proud of. We have seen a spirit of unity we have not seen here.”
The Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging, which sponsors meals at the center, was also involved in the project, alongside residents who donated their time.
Among those who campaigned for a new senior center was Columbiana’s Jean Schofield.
Schofield said she has been going to the center almost every day for “a long, long time” and approached city leaders with the idea for a new facility.
County Manager Alex Dudchock recognized Schofield and said she was “relentless” in seeing the project come to fruition.
“Days like today, it’s not how you pulled it off, but it’s about what you’ll be doing here in the future,” Dudchock said to the group. “We’re going to have it for you and others to enjoy. This place needs to be alive.”
The center features a library and puzzle room, a craft and sewing room, a sitting room that will also house a pool table and a large room available for meals, games and other activities.
“Right now, we have about 25 members,” Payne said. “We hope to really, really grow.”
Handley implored the community to enjoy and take care of the building.
“To me, this is a tribute to this community,” Handley said. “We have something very nice, very fine here.”
The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday–Friday.
“It’s a great thing for our community,” Sara Conn, Payne’s mother, said. “It’s a long time coming. I’m just so happy for everybody.”