SOWEGA Council on Aging Development Director Izzie Sadler, left, describes features of the new state-of-the-art Senior Life Enrichment facility to Jenny Collins during a walk-through site tour Thursday afternoon. The 45,000-square-foot building, located on West Society Ave., will serve as the hub of all offices for the COA, Senior Life Enrichment Center, convention center and special events venue. (April 25, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- While progress continues on the SOWEGA Council on Aging Senior Life Enrichment Center on West Society Avenue, fundraising activities necessary to help pay off the cost for the center's construction are ongoing.
"The building is just going great," said SOWEGA Executive Director Kay Hind. "We did a walk-through this week, and it is unbelievable. I can't imagine this is going to happen."
The center is on track for completion at the end of November. The goal is to have it occupied around Christmas, which will follow with a grand opening in early 2014, Hind said.
The facility, being constructed from a building that formerly belonged to Byne Memorial Baptist Church, is expected to have a ballroom with hardwood floors, a catering kitchen, 80 staff offices, smartboards and streaming capabilities -- for visiting conferences and webinars -- and classroom space.
"We have talked about having a class on how to use a cell phone. I'll be taking that class," Hind quipped. "... We've already been contacted by groups who want to have their state meetings there."
In addition to a walk-through conducted by the staff earlier in the week, a tour was conducted for area officials at the site Thursday afternoon.
"When we go out and speak to folks about what we will offer, they say, 'That's great,'" said Izzie Sadler, development director for the agency. "But once they see it ..."
Sadler added that its location in the historical district of Albany has been taken into account in the architecture of the 45,000-square-foot building. With the assistance of grants and fundraising events that are upcoming, officials hope to have the center -- worth a total of $8 million -- paid off in the coming months.
One of the fundraisers officials hope will help with that is the Kentucky Derby event "Juleps, Jockeys & Jazz" set for 5 p.m.-8 p.m. May 4 at Stonebridge Golf & Country Club.
Last year's event, the first one SOWEGA conducted, was attended by 350 people.
"We hope to have the same number or more this year," Sadler said.
A hat parade, betting games on the horses, a live jazz band and a silent auction will be among the festivities taking place as the race is streamed live from the country club, officials say.
"We will do everything we did (at the event) last year," Hind said.
A Buster Posey bat is among the items expected to be up for auction at the event. Tickets are $60 a person, and can be purchased online at www.sowegacoa.org on the "Events" page, by visiting the office at 1105 Palmyra Road or by calling (229) 432-1124.
Tickets can be bought at the door, but it is preferred that attendees register in advance.
With the center being funded through private donations, special-purpose, local-option sales tax and grants, the monetary support for the building differs from the funds SOWEGA is anticipating cuts from -- which will consist solely of money used for programs the agency offers.
Recent census data indicated that SOWEGA would be receiving a 13.2 percent cut, the biggest for a council on aging in Georgia. Officials on the state level, however, are attempting to work it out so that no region receives more than a 5 percent cut, Hind said.
"That is what we were told last week," she said.
As far as the sequester is concerned, Hind said officials are not sure when those cuts would take effect or how much they would be.
The center, which has been in development for seven years, is anticipated to help close the gap expected to result from the impending cuts.
"The building will be a means to generate income," Sadler said. "It will be an important part of generating income so we will not be so reliant on state and federal funding."
In the meantime, officials say programing is going full force at the agency with 25 new clients added every month. New educational programs are coming on board, including those catered toward caregiver training, chronic disease self-management and fall prevention, officials say.