University City

New location, same fun for seniors

The North Mecklenburg Senior Center is ready to show off its new digs to the community.

On Thursday, center staff and volunteers will host a grand opening celebration in the space it now shares on Old Statesville Road with Solid Rock Christian Church of the Apostolic Faith. Free games, food and prizes will be among the offerings from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.

"We are going to welcome the new year with a big celebration and some special opportunities, and we hope a large number of seniors will join us," said Joanne Ahern, the center's director.

The center opened at Solid Rock on Nov. 7, after a months-long search for a new home.

Since September 2007, The River Church at 18731 W. Catawba Ave. in Cornelius had let the center use its facility.

But that space was 10,000 square feet, much larger than the center needed, and was costing the center too much money for utilities and other payments, said Trena Palmer, executive director of the nonprofit Charlotte-Mecklenburg Senior Centers Inc., which runs the center.

The center paid $3,000 a month to use the church building. The fee included utilities, trash pickup, pest control, the alarm system and insurance, Palmer said last year.

"The cost of keeping it open is more than we can afford," Palmer said at the time. "(The church) has been underwriting our costs."

The center is leasing the 6,000-square-foot Solid Rock Christian Church space for $2,500 a month, Ahern said at the center Wednesday morning, as 10 seniors exercised in an Easy Does It strength training class.

The site offers the center a full kitchen, a main room for exercise classes, a room for small meetings, a room that can accommodate 50 people for card-playing, and a "beautiful new lobby," Ahern said.

Pastor Sylvester Williams said offering the space to the center was a good fit with the church's overall mission.

"We're very elated to have the center use our facilities," Williams said. "We want to be a community service and a resource for the community."

Ahern said she's grateful The River Church provided its space in Cornelius, but is also "very, very happy" with the new location.

The center uses the space from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. It has kept its daily exercise, card-playing and other activities at the same times as the former site.

During the weeks of Jan. 9, 16 and 23, the center also is offering all programs and classes for free to seniors using the center for the first time. Regular center participants are being encouraged to try other fee-based classes for free as well.

Center regulars include Hand & Foot card game teammates Mary Ellen Brown of Huntersville and Delores Crawford of Cornelius, who last week paired up against longtime rivals Ginny Church of Huntersville and Lorraine Harris of Cornelius.

Brown said she looks forward to avenging the 47-to-27 game drubbing she and Crawford took from Church and Harris last year.

"We're out for blood this year," she quipped before the start of another daylong match.