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SOWEGA Senior Center moving toward December completion, in need of donations

Retired educator Jesse Massey stands in what will become the SOWEGA Council on Aging Senior Life Enrichment Center fitness room. Massey recently donated $10,000 for equipment that will go into the fitness room. The center is now about 80 percent complete. (Jennifer Parks).

Retired educator Jesse Massey stands in what will become the SOWEGA Council on Aging Senior Life Enrichment Center fitness room. Massey recently donated $10,000 for equipment that will go into the fitness room. The center is now about 80 percent complete. (Jennifer Parks).

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The SOWEGA Council on Aging Senior Life Enrichment Center being built on West Society Avenue is now 80 percent finished and is expected to be complete by December. In all, the project is expected to cost $7.8 million. (Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — While the finishing touches are now being put on what will soon become the SOWEGA Council on Aging Senior Life Enrichment Center, donations are still needed to bring the project to completion.

Among the most recent benefactors for the center was retired coach and educator Jesse Massey, who donated $10,000 to Council on Aging officials this week for the purchase of equipment to go in what will become the center’s fitness room.

As of earlier this week, the 45,000-square-foot center — which is being built at a site formerly owned by Byne Memorial Baptist Church — was 80 percent complete. The land was later purchased by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, and Phoebe donated it in 2008 to SOWEGA. Over time, funding for the project was collected, and ground was eventually broken at the site — at 335 W. Society Ave. — in October 2012.

Bringing several facilities under one roof, officials say the project is expected to be complete in December — putting it on track for a grand opening in early 2014.

The center will include at least two elevators, a den, a kitchen that will be used for the Meals on Wheels program as well as other community events, a dining room that will have the same wood floor used for the gymnasium that was once in its place, boardroom with a smart board, more than 80 offices, an overflow room for receptions, a classroom, computer lab, craft rooms and the fitness room — which will be dedicated to Massey’s mother, Jessi Massey.

The fitness room, as it is now, has holes visible in the floor were the treadmills will go. With the help of Jesse Massey’s donation, the room will also have stationary bicycles, weights, arm cycles for the wheelchair-bound and a couple of TV sets — which are expected to be ordered in the next month, officials say.

The former educator, who grew up in a home nearby the future center, said he had been saving up since 2008 in order to present the $10,000 check to Council on Aging Executive Director Kay Hind this week.

“He has been a supporter of ours for years. It’s not surprising in his retirement (that he would make this contribution),” Hind said. “We are so excited about someone from the community stepping up. In this case, we didn’t even have to ask. We welcome this, and anyone else who wants to help.”

This particular donation, Hind said, ties into the overall mission of allowing senior citizens to live longer and healthier lives.

“One of the things we are hoping to do is get older people to improve themselves,” she said.

Jesse Massey said he first met Hind in 2001 when a group of students from Albany Middle School chose the council as the non-profit they wanted to support — resulting in a $125 donation.

“It was small, but it was from the heart,” he said. “I retired in 2008, and when this (project) came into being, I jumped on that. It is so important that others jump on board.

“There are two things I do — young people and old people. (I made the donation) because of the need to help the community. I’ve got to live here, so I’ve got to make it better. I’m almost a senior citizen, and I’m trying to help out.”

The retired coach also said the donation was also part of a personal goal he has made for himself in honor of his fraternity celebrating 100 years to do 100 good deeds in one year.

Massey’s check adds to the $5.8 million that has been raised so far for the $7.8 million project. Special-purpose, local-option sales tax dollars have contributed $3 million, funding from the city and Housing and Urban Development grants have brought in $642,918, while capital campaigns, donations, recent fundraising events and property sales have contributed $2.2 million to the project.

This leaves $2 million that still needs to be raised in order to bring the project to completion.

“It is taking all the money we’ve got, plus a little more,” Hind said. ” … We are still raising money. We don’t have enough. We are looking at a mortgage.”