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Ground broken on future SOWEGA senior center

SOWEGA Council on Aging Executive Director Kay Hind stands at the site of the future Senior Life Enrichment Center on West Society Avenue on Thursday just before ground was broken on the facility. Officials say the project has been at least 20 years in the making.

SOWEGA Council on Aging Executive Director Kay Hind stands at the site of the future Senior Life Enrichment Center on West Society Avenue on Thursday just before ground was broken on the facility. Officials say the project has been at least 20 years in the making.

ALBANY, Ga. — The SOWEGA Council on Aging has moved one step closer to getting a new senior center in Dougherty County.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday morning for the facility, which will be known as the Senior Life Enrichment Center, at the site of the former Byne Memorial Baptist Church property at 335 W. Society Ave.

The development of the new center, officials say, will allow the council to provide a broad scope of life-enhancing programs to those aged 50 and older in the area. The vision for the facility — which will house all of the services the council offers in Dougherty County — is to be a vibrant place where adults can come to socialize with friends, enjoy a meal and exercise their bodies and minds through fitness and educational programs.

Kay Hind, the council’s executive director, grew up not far away from where the facility is being constructed. The center’s fruition has been a vision she has had for at least 20 years.

“This is going to give senior citizens a place to come in and enjoy all kinds of social events,” Hind said. “We are real proud of it and I am excited about the effort.

“I’m obviously very happy about it.”

Hind said officials are hopeful that a ribbon cutting for the center will take place sometime around Christmas Day in 2013. The facilities there will include a commercial kitchen, a large dining room, fitness facility, computer lab, educational classrooms, social activity rooms and a craft room — and will serve as a hub for all the agency’s offices.

There are 14 counties under the council’s umbrella.

The total value of the project, once complete, will be more than $8 million. Yielding, Wakeford & McGee out of Albany and Flynn & Finderup out of Atlanta are serving as the architects, and LRA Constructors is the contractor for the project.

“I am excited because we are here for a groundbreaking at least 20 years in the making,” said Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard on Thursday. “We are going to be serving seniors and help them to be stronger and safer. I’m excited that there will be a center allowing social programs for us.

“This is going to be part of a cleanup effort for downtown. It takes a lot of hard work and partnership (to bring these kinds of projects) to fruition.”

Appearances were also made at the groundbreaking by Lorie Farkas, the council’s board president, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital CEO Joel Wernick.

“(The dream of Kay Hind) has taken 20 years to take root,” said Farkas. “The dream was to create an exciting place for senior citizens to be safe. (The center) will be a gathering place not only senior citizens will be proud (to have), but that the whole community can use.”

Through the appropriations process, Bishop had a direct role in securing over $835,000 for the project.

“It was the singular vision and drive of Kay Hind that made this happen,” the congressman said. “She’s worked tirelessly and has been a passionate advocate for this senior center as long as I’ve known her.

“The dream is about to become a reality.”

Phoebe’s role in making the center come to life surfaced in 2008 when the hospital donated the former Byne site to SOWEGA for the agency to build the project on.

Wernick said at the groundbreaking that the decision to donate the land came from the recognition of the need as well as the confidence that the property would be well utilized.

“I know this land will be used for what it is intended for and that the generations after (will benefit from it),” he said.