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Officials cheer ‘super facility’ for seniors

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Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee briefly speaks on the microphone to draw the audience’s attention to Pam Breeden, director of senior services, at the beginning of Wednesday’s program for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Senior Wellness Center on Powder Springs Street in Marietta.
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan

An estimated 400 people gathered Wednesday to welcome Cobb County’s new Senior Wellness Center.

“This is the best kind of compliment we can get,” Cobb Senior Services Director Pam Breeden said as she surveyed the standing room–only audience. “You’re excited about what we’re doing.”

The new, 42,000-square-foot facility, located in the old Powder Springs Station shopping center at 1150 Powder Springs St., is expected to serve 10,000 people ages 55 and older each month once it is up and running in the coming weeks.

Breeden said a new café is open in the building, and seniors can come by to get information on some of its offerings.

Before cutting a red ribbon that ran the length of the stage, dignitaries lauded the wellness center, which has been in the planning stages since 2005.

“A great nation is only as great as its capacity to take care of those who have taken care of us,” said U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta), noting the federal Health Resources and Services Administration dollars that Georgia’s Senate and House members helped secure for the wellness center.

Cobb Chairman Tim Lee praised his predecessor, state Attorney General Sam Olens, for his “unwavering effort” in getting the wellness center built in a former Ingles grocery store.

“I remember him telling stories about how they were fighting and punching and kicking to make this happen,” Lee said.

Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said the facility will be more than just a wellness center.

“They overcame a lot of obstacles to get here — a terrible economy, flight paths of airplanes,” said Tumlin, referring to a federal decision that prevented the site from getting funding because it was located close to Dobbins Air Reserve Base. “Not only did they overcome it, it’s a super facility.”

The facility features a clinic operated by WellStar, which is free to Cobb residents between 55 and 65 who fall below 125 percent of the poverty line. It is focused on people who are retired and no longer receive health insurance but are too young for Medicare.

But all seniors will be able to enjoy the wellness center’s 2,500-square-foot café, which opens out onto a 1,900-square-foot patio, along with workout and fitness rooms, art studio and teaching kitchen. Breeden said the facilities will be used for a variety of classes, which Senior Services is still seeking instructors for. While many services will be free, some will charge if the county has to pay an instructor.

The wellness center is anchored by the 5,600-square-foot “dinner theater,” which Breeden hopes to use for various productions for seniors.

The new building will also serve as the headquarters for Senior Services, as well as Cobb’s Meals on Wheels operations and the Marietta Neighborhood Senior Center, which serves between 35 and 45 seniors who are generally older and poorer than the multipurpose center users.

Breeden said some of the offerings at the wellness center will be unique, while others will continue to be available only at the county’s four senior multipurpose centers. While she said the wellness center won’t be fully operational until mid-October, she wanted to have the ribbon cutting early.

“You’ve got to get them in here, get folks excited,” she said. “Let them learn about the facility.”

The county paid $5.75 million for the entire 89,000-square-foot blighted shopping center in June 2009. The senior center itself was expected to cost $2.7 million to build, with $1 million of that coming from the 2011 SPLOST and the remainder from insurance money and other funds the county received as a result of the September 2009 flooding of the Austell Senior Center. Other county departments, including property management and commercial development, are already using the center.

Kathy Lathem, resource development coordinator for Senior Services, said the wellness center has raised $97,000 through its naming rights program, which allows residents and companies to pay anywhere from $30 for a four-by-eight inch brick to $125,000 for the entire center. The largest purchases so far were a conference room, which took a $25,000 donation from the Senior Citizen Council, and two $5,000 donations for classrooms, named for Walton Communities and Skin Cancer Specialists.

Many seniors came Wednesday to check out the offerings at the wellness center. Malcolm Mackenzie, 83, said he came from his home a few blocks away because he is interested in participating in a watercolor painting class. He sees it as a fun place to spend the day.

“It looks like a really nice facility with a nice lunchroom,” Mackenzie said. “If you have a class in the morning, you can take a break during lunch, and pick up in the afternoon.”

Other officials on hand included Marietta City Councilmen Grif Chalfant, a member of the Senior Services steering committee, and Philip Goldstein and Cobb Commissioners Helen Goreham, Bob Ott, JoAnn Birrell and Woody Thompson.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal, August 30, 2012. Written by Geoff Folsom. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Officials cheer ‘super facility’ )

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