Baby Boomers across Michigan's Great Southwest are not only exercising their freedoms more of late, they are literally exercising their bodies, too, in order to maintain their health so they can continue to exercise those freedoms. Nowhere is that more evident than at the St. Joseph-Lincoln Senior Center where traffic is up and activity is, too.
Board President Richard Freridge says, "For the past three years we have been growing in excess of 17-percent per year in attendance." He says, as a result, at least three days per week parking was becoming a premium item, noting, "Members were circling the parking lot waiting for someone to leave, parking on the grass or getting frustrated and leaving." So, two years ago they started looking at how to develop the 7-acres behind their building at the old North Lincoln School.
They enlisted the aid of the Architecture and Design School at Andrews University to help produce a viable plan. Martin Smith, Professor and head of the Internship program at the Architecture Design School showed up one day with three student Interns in tow. The Senior Center's Board held focus group meetings and they, in turn, broke into work groups which helped the Center discover everything they could do with the “Back Yard.”
Freridge says the Andrews Interns then took those ideas, researched them, plotted them on drawings, researched vendors and came up with an estimated cost to implement plans for the green space out back. The plan was fine-tuned with the Board and the finished product included not only 100 additional parking spaces, but also an outdoor exercise area, a walking trail with gardens and meditation areas, and a new entrance on the east side of the building.
Next, the board took the Andrews drawings and ideas to the team at Abonmarche Engineering in Benton Harbor last fall, where Jason Marquardt, Senior Project Engineer, took on the project by making it into a workable plan and most importantly developed a plan for future parking and development.
Freridge says that at that same time, "We started working with Snider Recreation Representative, Dan Carattini. Dan reps Greenfield Outdoor Fitness Equipment who is the 'Cadillac' of the outdoor fitness equipment business. Dan helped us develop a plan and established a cost for the outdoor exercise zone."
The parking lot had been on the Senior Center's 5-year plan so they had already begun saving money several years earlier. With the help of everyone at the Center they were able to raise the money for the parking lot. Freridge says, "We held fundraisers where you could donate for a parking space, a Bake-less Bake sale...the staff organized an apparel sale with the Center logo on shirts and jackets." Even the Loan Closet had a overstock sale, while sewing and knitting groups sold handmade items at the front desk. Everyone got involved.
When the fundraising team began meeting with major donors for the Outdoor Fitness Zone, walking trail and new entrance to the building, they met with Bob Kohn. He had many questions about the project and proved to be very interested in the materials to be used and the construction process. Kohn asked the board to re-price the project to incorporate the use of a paving product known as Porous Pave. That's a recycled plastic product that is slip resistant, and an environmentally friendly product that allows water to quickly drain away by flowing through it.
Once the board had presented Mr. Kohn with the revised bids, he generously agreed to pay for the entire project, and as such it is appropriately named The Betty Kohn Outdoor Fitness Zone at the St. Joseph-Lincoln Senior Center. The entire Outdoor Fitness Zone and future walking trail are outside and available for the entire community to use and enjoy.
Meanwhile, fundraising continues for the new entrance and the walking trail, while the Center's Gardening Club will tackle the gardens, developing plans and researching local plants native to Michigan and then planting and maintaining those gardens.
Freridge says, "We are getting ready to re-bid the construction of the new entrance on the east side of the building which we are currently raising money for, and will also continue to talk to donors for the walking trail." He adds, "This entire project will be a great addition not only to our Center but to the entire community for many years to come."
Freridge says anyone interested in participating in any of the remaining projects, or those who are just interested in the Center, can contact Cindi McLaughlin, the Executive Director of the St. Joseph-Lincoln Senior Center by calling 429-7768 or look them up on line by clicking this link:
The Saint Joseph-Lincoln Senior Center is located at 3271 Lincoln Avenue in St. Joseph and conducted their ribbon cutting last week on the new Betty Kohn Outdoor Fitness Zone in formal ceremonies at the Center.