LACONIA — The Laconia Senior Center, located downtown, is moving to another downtown location, one which will offer greater visibility, easier access and allow for more services.
The Senior Center is currently located at 17 Church Street, in space that they rent. Sometime around the beginning of the year, if everything goes as planned, it will move to 532 Main Street, located between Sawyer’s Jewelry and The Whiskey Barrel, in space that the Community Action Program of Belknap-Merrimack Counties has purchased.
To learn more about the move, including how to help develop the space, there will be an open house at the 532 Main St. space on Sept. 25, from 2:30 to 5 p.m.
The amount of usable square footage in the new facility will be about the same, said Laconia Senior Center Director Tom Menard. But as owners instead of renters, they will have greater control about the layout of the space. It will also be easier to find – though the current space has a Church Street address, it was, practically speaking, a Canal Street property – and easier for members to access. The current space, which the Senior Center has occupied for 20 years, only has a handful of dedicated parking spaces; the new one has a large, shared parking space off of Beacon Street West.
The Laconia Senior Center offers its members an affordable community meal, as well as activities, both of which provide members a chance to get out of the house and meet new friends.
For those who aren’t able to get to the center, it operates a Meals On Wheels program that sends out an average of 230 warm meals. In addition to the meal, the program recipients also get a regular visitor, someone who checks in on their well-being and might recommend a solution for problems that arise.
More than meals, the Senior Center offers a connection.
“They have a place to go,” Lorraine Parkhurst, a seven-year member of the center, said about what the program offers for its members. “And I feel most of the people go because of Tom, to get the hugs in the morning.”
“They also come for the services,” added Irene Johnson. There are regular clinics for foot and ear care, she noted, “and where can you go to get lunch for $2?”
“It’s like a second family,” Parkhurst said.
Suzanne Demers, director of elder services for CAP Belknap-Merrimack Counties, said the senior center is just one of many programs that her organization offers for the community. CAP offers more than 70 services to low-income families. Most of those services are offered through its Laconia Area office, located at 121 Belmont Road. Not many in the community know about that office, though, and for those who need the services, it might be hard to get to. Demers said CAP will likely look to utilize the Main Street space to provide some other CAP services downtown.
“Our primary goal is to make services accessible to people to the community,” Demers said.
Her hope is to move the center into the new space by the end of the year. But first, CAP will need to raise $365,000 in order to make renovations, including the installation of a commercial kitchen.
Demers said she hopes people will attend the Sept. 25 open house with a willingness to help reach that goal.
“My plea to the community is, this is your community. These are people who have lived in your community their whole lives. They certainly give back to the community every day,” Demers said.