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Bayfield seniors cut ribbon on new senior center
12/19/2008 By: Carole McWilliams
Bayfield senior citizens, community officials, and many other well-wishers packed the new Bayfield Senior Center last Friday afternoon for a ceremonial ribbon cutting and recognition of donors who helped make the long awaited center a reality.
The new building is southeast of the rodeo arena on land donated by La Plata County.
One of the most common reactions last Friday was that the building is really impressive, very nice, and a lot bigger inside than it looks from the outside.
Besides the large dining hall, the center has a full commercial kitchen with walk-in cooler and freezer, a warming kitchen available for other community groups that can rent the center, a large sitting porch on the south side overlooking the river, a sitting room with fireplace and TV, meeting rooms, and offices.
Three of the most senior seniors, Jewell LePlatt, Sybilee Phillips, and Marge Forsythe, took charge of the ribbon cutting. Bayfield Mayor Rick Smith defined "senior" as "a person having years of experience filled with wisdom and insight, and they are doers." The new building is evidence of that, he said.
Local seniors have been pushing for their own space for years. They’ve been limited to once-a-week lunches on Fridays at the old mid school cafeteria on South Street. Many of the seniors helped build or were in school when community members built the old gym and cafeteria in the late 1940s.
They have had to do set up and take down for the Friday lunches. They wanted to have lunches more days each week, and they wanted more time to socialize. Now they have it.
County Commissioner Wally White, known for his silver ponytail, claimed status as a senior because he just turned 66 and just had a hip replacement.
“We loved the collaborative efforts we have had with Bayfield,” White said. “Without all of you, this wouldn’t have happened.” He joked, “We’ll need to keep all the Durango seniors from coming out here.”
Town manager Justin Clifton noted the many large and small donors who helped pay for the $1.6 million building. The town contributed $250,000. The county contributed another $250,000 plus the land.
The town got a $700,000 grant from the State Department of Local Affairs, and grants from private foundations – the Gates Family Fund, Daniels Foundation, El Pomar, Boettcher Foundation, and Adolph Coors Foundation.
Clifton said the local contributions were the most special. There were six donors of $10,000 or more (money or in-kind) - First National Bank, Lewis True Value, LPEA, Southwest Ag, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and BP.
Clifton noted that BP had already given $1 million to the Regional Housing Alliance this year, so he was hesitant to ask them. But the project was about $14,000 short. Hesitantly he asked if BP might help with that. They gave $20,000, he said.
The next tier of donors included FCI Construction, the Ballantine Family Fund, Pine Valley Foursquare Church, Brenda’s Old West Café, which hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, Alpine Bank, the Calvary Crusaders, Bayfield Lions Club, and Pine River Centennial Rotary.
Many other individuals, businesses, and community groups also donated, Clifton said. “Everybody stepped up to do something.”
The seniors’ first Friday lunch in the new building is a Christmas lunch and party today. Regular lunches will start on Jan. 9, with bingo after lunch. Starting on Jan. 14, the center will be open with lunches on Wednesdays as well as Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The building will be available for rent to other community groups when the seniors aren’t using it. The rent schedule hasn’t been determined yet. For now the contact person on that is Ryan at the town parks and rec department, 884-9034.