Friday, March 25, 2011
By ERIC HAMILTON
“Bingo,” I shouted from inside the office of Bill Adams at the Austintown Senior Center.
“Whoa, better not do that; they love their bingo,” Adams cautioned, as the crowd just outside the door checked their cards.
Yes, they do. But it’s not just the bingo that draws dozens of seniors to the center each weekday. Since opening last year, the facility has been a hot spot for Austintown’s 60 and over crowd. Some drive there. Others walk when the weather is nice.
While a spirited game of bingo is definitely one the crowd’s favorite activities, there are plenty more amenities that make the center attractive. Wii bowling always draws a crowd at the center. Last week when I visited the facility around 9 a.m., there was already a group firing up the Wii.
“We have some pretty good bowlers here,” said Adams. “One just bowled in the 260s recently. It’s fun to watch.”
The senior center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and averages 50 plus visitors a week. Some days are more crowded than others. Holiday parties really bring folks out.
According to Adams and Rick Stauffer, a pastor at Tabernacle Evangelical Presbyterian Church, there are 340 signed members of the center.
The 8,000-square foot facility has plenty of open space. There are tables for meals or activities, cornhole boards, a pool table, air hockey and big screen televisions. One room houses computers with Internet access, while another has a nice area for a friendly game of cards.
Adams and Stauffer would love to have the center open more hours. There’s one big problem with that - lack of funding. Although the center is stocked with fancy couches, big TVs and new chairs and tables, don’t get the wrong idea.
“All of this was donated,” said Adams.
During a time when school districts and townships are asking the community to pass levies, the senior center needs funding, too. But it can’t rely on tax money and such as a source of income. The only way the center can find a windfall is the old-fashioned way - work for it.
Center officials are working on trying to raise awareness about the center and raise funds to help keep it going. The goal would be to increase the weekday hours from 9-1 to 9-5. The next step would be to add weekend hours.
But that will take more money. They have begun a fundraising campaign with a goal of bringing in $50,000. The hope is that this money will come from fundraising events, grants and the generosity of those in the Valley.
“It is great to see the relationships being built here,” said Stauffer. “It’s a great place for fellowship.”
The center is sponsoring a trash and treasure bake sale April 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The facility is located at 100 Westchester Dr., just off Mahoning Avenue.
Donations of unneeded items will be accepted April 6-8 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Austintown Senior Center.
Proceeds from the sale will be used to fund senior center activities and operating costs. For more information on the center or how to donate, call 330-953-1416.