One large, vacant building has allowed area non-profit organizations to form a lasting partnership with the senior citizens center.
While non-profit organizations now occupy several floors of the former Kingwood Good Samaritan Center, the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center is looking at moving its operations to two floors there by this fall.
When the Kingwood Good Samaritan Center nursing home closed its doors in 1997, the Good Samaritan organization sought a productive way to use the building.
Good Samaritan wanted to find a way for the building to continue to provide services to senior citizens. As a result, the building was donated to the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center.
"We'd simply outgrown it in the years we'd been there," Jill Waller, senior center executive director, said about the center's current facility in downtown Brainerd. The usable space in the downtown building is about 2,500 square feet. The new building will have more than 20,000 usable square feet.
The center will renovate the ground floor and the lower level of the former nursing home for its use. The lower level, or garden level, will house the kitchen and dining room, while the ground floor will consist of classrooms and multipurpose rooms. The second through fourth floors are now occupied by other non-profit organizations.
The senior center has 1,200 members, although membership is optional. Many days the center serves up to 200 retirees. The center offers many programs to citizens ages 50 or older. The programs address education, recreation, social functions, volunteer opportunities and nutrition.
With additional space, the center could offer more of the same activities, such as speakers and weekly dances, and develop new programs. Some of the proposed ideas include exercise programs, advanced arts and crafts classes and weekend dances.
When the idea of expanding became a reality, the building committee sent a series of surveys to all the members asking for input on how the building should be used and what programs they would like to see.
"People weren't shy about coming to us with ideas," said Nancy Cross, new building committee chair.
"About 95 percent of our help is volunteer," said Waller. The center has been doing everything possible to raise funds for renovations. There have been membership and community campaigns. The center is seeking grants. However, a large portion of the funds coming in have been from individual donations.
"We have had tremendous support from the community, but we're not done yet," Cross said.
Because of the size of the Kingwood Street facility, the senior center decided to create a non-profit organization center. The top three floors of the building are available to area organizations with non-profit status for a nominal user fee to cover the costs of operating the building.
Five organizations are now operating out of the Kingwood Street facility -- a Boy Scouts District Office, Green Thumb, Crow Wing County Victim Services, Brainerd Jaycees and Crow Wing County United Way. Two more organizations will move in by the end of the year -- Community Action and the Heartland Region of Minnesota Senior Federation.
The United Way moved in Wednesday, and is already up and running thanks to volunteer help. When asked why the United Way chose to move, Diane Hoglin, administrative assistant, said, "It's really accessible to have all the non-profits right here. We can share services."
The Kingwood building is giving the senior center and non-profit organizations room to expand and work together.
"After the announcement of the move, there has been increased interest in activities," Waller said. "I can see our membership doubling or even tripling in the future."
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