New senior center is a gift for the entire community

December 20, 2019

New senior center is a gift for the entire community.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART TOWNSHIP — The community unwrapped a gigantic Christmas present this week when the Oceana County Council on Aging moved into its dazzling new senior center on Tyler Road just outside the city limits.

“We are ecstatic and so grateful that our vision for this new home for OCCOA has come to fruition,” said OCCOA Director Kathleen Premer. “We thank the communities in Oceana County for making this dream come true for today’s older adults and the generations to come.”

The senior center is a bright red 9,000-plus square foot pole barn situated on 23 acres of scenic land. The design celebrates Oceana County’s agricultural heritage by using repurposed barn wood and ag accents throughout the building’s interior.

The high ceiling in the center of the spacious multi-purpose room has fans resembling old-fashioned windmill blades. Several homemade and repurposed decor items throughout the building celebrate Oceana’s farming history. An antique tractor is conveniently placed by the roadside to direct visitors to the entrance. Many items were donated to the center by locals.

A windmill will be installed on the grounds, said Volunteer Project Manager Doug Bacon. The property will offer gathering areas for bonfires, walking paths and community gardens, Bacon said.

“Many of our seniors were farmers and farmers’ wives,” said Robin Rash, one of the members of the building committee that designed the impressive structure.

The 15-member committee worked together to create the one-of-a-kind senior center. “They were a great group to work with,” said Bacon. “We had a ball doing it.”

“We did things so unconventionally that we cut costs,” Bacon said. “We modified things as we went.” The planning process is a called a “design build” format.

The $1.3 million project is coming in under budget, Bacon said.

The new facility — funded by a millage increase of .25 mills approved by voters in 2016 — nearly triples the size of the previous facility on East Main Street. The move took place last Friday and Saturday, Rash said. Much of the moving work was performed by Oceana County Jail inmates participating in the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Work Program.

Blackmer Construction of Pentwater is the general contractor for the project, and Shelby State Bank is financing it.

The new facility offers much larger kitchen, serving and dining areas for the homemade daily lunches that the seniors enjoy. The old facility had a dining room capacity of 100, and the new building can accommodate 250 people.

The new building includes a clinical office for physician visits, office space and activity rooms.

OCCOA had been housed in the old facility on East Main Street by the Oceana County Medical Care Facility since 1992, and the organization has existed for nearly 48 years.

“Our new building theme comes from the local farms and history of Oceana County, with the idea of a post-and-beam structure that mimics the warmth and inviting charm of an old family barn. This new senior center is for everyone – whether they are already seniors, or the ‘future’ seniors,” Rash said.

The building on East Main Street will be converted into an adult daycare center, said Rash. OCCOA currently pays rent for a daycare facility and will no longer have to do that once the move is made.

Seniors were definitely in mind with the site selection and design. Bacon said the parking lot has no grade, making it handicap accessible. In the multi-purpose room when it is busy with seniors eating lunch, the noise level is pleasant. There is not a lot of background noise that can cause those who wear hearing aides comfort issues.

The new facility is the perfect place for a large event, such as a wedding reception, and it is available to rent. The multi-purpose room has a sound system, large screen TVs and a cozy fireplace.

Large windows bring in natural light and display the rolling countryside. “We see deer and turkeys all the time,” Rash said.

“I am ecstatic and proud that the Oceana County Council on Aging is able to provide not only top notch services for seniors, but also a beautiful new center for all residents of Oceana County to enjoy,” said OCCOA Assistant Director Stephanie Moore.

“The opportunities for new programs are endless,” Moore said. “Not only do we have much needed additional indoor space, there is also acreage behind the center which will allow us to offer some new outdoor activities, such as gardening and walking trails, etc. These programs will be forthcoming. Please come see us!”

OCCOA draws in seniors from neighboring Mason and Muskegon counties, and will now likely draw in more seniors and visitors with the new facility.

“We’re making Oceana County a destination,” Bacon said.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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