With the facilities up and running for more than a month, people have been invited to come see the new Liberty County senior citizen and community center and new bus facilities in Chester Saturday.
“We’re planning for four to five hundred (visitors), so bring your friends, ” center office manager Sheila Duncan said Friday.
The new building replaces the old senior center in Chester. A new garage and office space attached houses the county transit system. The county government began planning on the project 10 years ago.
The construction was paid through a variety of grants, loans and local funding, including a $450,000 grant from U. S. Housing and Urban Development, administered through the state Department of Commerce, a $350,000 grant through the state Department of Transportation, and a $228,000 loan through Triangle Communications from U. S. Rural Development.
Duncan said the new center is a major improvement. For example, she said, the seating for meals has gone from 42 to 125, and the new kitchen equipment makes a major difference.
“We think (the kitchen equipment) came over on the boat, but the ark, not the Mayflower, at the old center, ” she said.
Since the staff members started serving meals a the new location June 6, they have seen a 20-percent increase in people eating, Duncan said, adding that over the summer in the past they normally saw a decrease.
“It’s a large improvement, and it’s a pleasant atmosphere, ” she said. “People aren’t anxious to leave. ”
The center also is working to expand its equipment and activities. Duncan said people using the center already have been playing games like cards, Bunco and bingo, and the staff members soon will be bringing in a pool table and a Wii system for Wii bowling.
The building is living up to its intended use as a community center as well. Duncan said four or five private groups have used it for meetings.
The transit system building also has been a major improvement, she added. Just having the buses inside to help keep them clean — and make it easier to clean them — helps
The building also can shelter people getting on the bus, if needed.
“We haven’t seen any scary weather here — no hail — but there’s always that possibility, ” Duncan said.
The grand opening festivities Saturday start at 11 a. m., with a free barbecue lunch running through 1 p. m. Duncan said refreshments, such as cookies and juice, will be offered from 1 to 4 p. m., with raffles and door prizes throughout the day and a variety of local musicians providing entertainment.
“We’re just going to run tours and get everybody familiar with it and show them where to get a good lunch, ” she said.