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SOWEGA Council on Aging Director Kay Hind's senior center dream a reality (VIDEO)

The grand opening of Senior Life Enrichment Center planned Thursday

Kay Hind, executive director of the SOWEGA Council on Aging, is interviewed by Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher about the organization's beginnings, its move into its recently opened Senior Life Enrichment Center on West Society Avenue and what lies ahead.


Kay Hind, who has been executive director of the Southwest Georgia Council on Aging for 46 years, fought for 20 of those years to bring the newly finished Senior Life Enrichment Center to Albany. (Herald staff photo: Laura Williams)

Kay Hind, who has been executive director of the Southwest Georgia Council on Aging for 46 years, fought for 20 of those years to bring the newly finished Senior Life Enrichment Center to Albany. (Herald staff photo: Laura Williams)

Video

Kay Hind discusses SOWEGA Council on Aging

Kay Hind, executive director of the SOWEGA Council on Aging, is interviewed by Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher about the organization's beginnings, its move into its recently opened Senior Life Enrichment Center on West Society Avenue and what lies ahead.

Kay Hind, executive director of the SOWEGA Council on Aging, is interviewed by Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher about the organization's beginnings, its move into its recently opened Senior Life Enrichment Center on West Society Avenue and what lies ahead.

ALBANY — Kay Hind sits at her desk in the newly renovated $10 million Senior Life Enrichment Center at 335 W. Society Ave. and rustles through a pile of papers awaiting her attention. There are programs to plan, personal appearances to prepare for, grants to write, details to iron out … every manner of SOWEGA Council on Aging business to tend to.

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Izzie Sadler is in her third year as the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s development director. (Herald staff photo: Laura Williams)

In the middle of it all, though, Hind pauses a moment to reflect on the fact that she’s in the fine new structure that, at long last, has brought all phases of the Council on Aging into one location for the first time in her 46 years with the agency.

“We’re here,” Hind says simply. And there’s an element of wonder in her voice.

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For almost half of her tenure with the agency that advocates for Southwest Georgia’s elderly, Hind has been hustling to get the Senior Life Enrichment Center built, calling politicians, making appeals in the community, chasing any possibility that might advance her dream.

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The SOWEGA Council on Aging’s recently completed Senior Life Enrichment Center is located at 335 W. Society Ave. in Albany. (Herald staff photo: Laura Williams)

Now, some two decades after the concept of a centralized senior center became Hind’s obsession, it is reality. Built at the site of the old Byne Christian School on West Society utilizing special tax funds, donations — including the land, which was given to the Council by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital — grants, money raised within the community and “a small loan that left us with a manageable mortgage,” the Enrichment Center is everything Hind hoped it would be.

She, Council Development Director Izzie Sadler, the organization’s board of directors and others associated with the Council on Aging will have their first opportunity to properly show the center off Thursday during a building dedication/ribbon-cutting/dinner and dance. Festivities start at 3:30 p.m. with the dedication and ribbon-cutting and continue at 6:30 p.m. with a black-tie-optional dinner and dance in the facility’s ballroom.

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SOWEGA Council on Aging volunteers make at least one community quilt a year to auction during council fundraisers. (Herald staff photo: Laura Williams)

“It’s unreal, to tell you the truth,” Hind said of the complex. “I walk down these halls and see all these offices filled with people, go upstairs to the ballroom where there’s some activity going on and it’s just a lot for me to absorb. We’ve come a long way since we started this with just me and an 87-year-old volunteer.”

Council staff moved new and donated furniture, equipment and files into the facility in January and wasted no time in settling into their new digs. Now, the 85 first-floor offices are full, employees who had worked for years in facilities scattered throughout the region within shouting distance of each other. The second floor, which is actually the first floor for those who use the West Society entrance, is the facility’s gem, containing a number of multipurpose meeting rooms, the ballroom — which was formerly the Byne gymnasium and features the original but newly finished hardwood floors

— catering and commercial kitchens, and the Council on Aging boardroom, complete with smartboard.

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The Senior Life Enrichment Center’s “Ballroom” was previously the gymnasium of the old Byne Christian School and still has its original hardwood flooring. (Herald staff photo: Laura Williams)

“We’re already getting calls about using the ballroom for state conferences,” Sadler said. “Depending on the seating arrangements, we can accommodate 225 to 300 people comfortably. We can also divide the room to make it more intimate, and we have movie screens and a bingo board.

“We have state-of-the-art catering and commercial kitchens, and there’s a room off the commercial kitchen where we distribute meals for our Meals on Wheels program five days a week.”

The third floor of the center houses a gymnasium with exercise equipment, a number of classrooms with smartboards and a computer lab with 10 computers.

“This is where we have a lot of our activities,” Sadler said. “We planned two computer classes, and there’s a waiting list already. We’ve moved a lot of our regular programs into the facility, and there are others we’ve been planning but never had the room to do until now.”

On a recent afternoon visit, Carole Gum is conducting the “Shades of Gold” art class she’s been teaching for 21 years. A class of 15 or so artists works on paintings in various stages of completion in the center’s ballroom.

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The main lobby of the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s new Senior Life Enrichment Center includes an impressive fireplace in the lobby’s sitting area. (Herald staff photo: Laura Williams)

“We were so crowded before, now we have all this space,” Gum says. “It’s so big it makes our class look tiny. But we’re so excited to be in this wonderful facility.”

Hind, meanwhile, grows animated as she talks about possibilities at the center.

“Our activities are already taking off,” she said. “We have our lunch-and-learn series, our art program, caregiver classes, the free tax program (which was expanded last week because it is generating so much interest), our computer classes. These classes are powerful tools, and now we can utilize our facilities to their full potential.”

Tickets for Thursday’s dinner, which are limited, are $75 each and may be purchased online at www.sowegacoa.org or at the Council’s new facility.

“This organization started out with me and one other lady trying to help individuals,” Hind said in a moment of reflection. “We’ve come a long way. The Council on Aging has grown, and I’m proud to say I’ve grown with it.

“It’s like a lady said a few years back after we finished one of our planned events: ‘That was almost worth getting old for.’”