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Senior Center to undergo improvements

July 3, 2019
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Lehigh Acres Senior Center will undergo some significant improvements to make the facility more ADA compliant, thanks to funding from the state and Lee County.

Rep. Spencer Roach, R-79, said the Senior Center has been open since 1980, operating for almost 40 years, with almost 1,000 seniors a month visiting.

The vast majority of those seniors are low income and rely on the center, he said.

"They have really been in jeopardy in closing their doors a couple of times," Roach said, adding that last year when the revenue was not there, Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass convinced the county to take over the Senior Center.

"They still needed some funds. The county came to me and I filed a bill to get them $350,000 and the county is matching those funds."

He said it was important to make some improvements to keep the lights on and the doors open. With Roach being a freshman legislator, the bill passing would not have happened without the help of state senators Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-27, and Kathleen Passidomo, R-28.

"They were instrumental in getting this across the finish line," Roach said. "I am very happy that the governor saw fit in keeping that in the budget."

He said the first time he visited the Senior Center was during a tour a year ago. Roach said they brought him in to do a Zumba class.

"I was a good couple decades younger and I could barely keep up with them," he said laughing. "It's a lively group. We want to keep that place open and keep the doors open and keep that resource for the seniors in Lehigh Acres."

Lee County Parks and Recreation Alise Flanjack said the $350,000 is an awesome thing for the Lehigh Acres Senior Center. She said the county recently took the operation back over in October from the nonprofit group.

"We have put Band-Aids on it over the years," Flanjack said, adding that they have replaced the roof and flooring. "This brings everything all at once up to ADA compliance."

The improvements includes copper piping, plumbing fixtures, exit lights and wrap-round fluorescent fixtures, cabinets in three restrooms, air-conditioning units and full ADA compliance, which includes resurfacing and restriping the parking lot.

Some of the work is already underway, with the county's staff and operations.

"We slowly had our facility management guys in there making some of those improvements that they can do now," she said. Those improvements include things like light fixtures and ceiling tiles.

For the larger jobs, such as the installation of cabinets and plumbing, they are waiting to receive the GAA funding to pay contractors to do the job. They are also hoping to get everything in place to replace the air conditioning unit before it reaches the end of its life.

All of these improvements are being done with the least amount of impact to the folks utilizing the Lehigh Acres Senior Center.

"There is a core group of folks that come there and play cards everyday. The ladies that come in and sew and do quilting. It's their social outlet," Flanjack said.

The folks who use the Senior Center are super excited about the improvements. Flanjack said they brought the improvement opportunities to the members' attention about five weeks ago, which led them to writing personal letters to the county, as well as the governor, to share how important the center is to them.

"It's a reason for them to get out their house, meet up with their friends on a daily basis. It's incredibly important to the population," she said. "It's a hidden gem behind the Sheriff's (Office.) We want people to know we are here and to come out and see us."

Lee County Parks and Recreation Manager Colleen Via said the Lehigh Acres Senior Center is going wonderfully, especially when the population is at its lowest during the summer months.

"We have had more memberships in the last three weeks. This is more the reason for us to keep the building up and improve it. The population is growing up here," she said.

The Lehigh Acres Senior Center always has activities taking place from fitness to art classes, card games and daily meals. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Anybody can stop in and check out the Senior Center.

"We have family members bringing in their mothers and fathers. Everyone can stop in. We have some wonderful literature and volunteer seniors that run the offices. They give great tours. The volunteer staff has a really nice view of what we have going on at the center," Via said.

The Lehigh Acres Senior Center is at 219 Plaza Drive. For more information, call 239-369-5355.



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