When Mercy Tiffin Hospital moved to its new facility in 2008, the hospital's building at 28 Hopewell Ave. was left vacant. Not long after, the Allen Eiry Senior Center, located on Orchard Park, began a search for new quarters. That organization was able to make arrangements with hospital officials and move into the Hopewell Avenue location, the former Mercy Hospital Sleep Lab and Community Center.
Allen Eiry members liked their new home and made arrangements to buy the building from Mercy Hospital. The Allen Eiry Fund Advisory Board had set aside money to purchase a building, and they approved more than $200,000 to make the transaction.
Even so, some costly renovations were needed, such as a new roof and a new heating and cooling system. Walls and bathrooms needed to be removed to open the interior space, and the kitchen area was inadequate.
In mid-2012, the board of directors launched a capital campaign with a goal of $500,000. Board president Ann Hutzel and vice president Larry Baker brought in Lee Martin and Janet Shutt to lead the campaign with Tony Lupica and his wife, Lucia, as honorary chairpersons.
In a recent interview, another board member, Marilyn Mangano, said she was surprised with the campaign's success. Although the amount seemed high, the final figure came in at $614,359.
"We were really lucky. We had a good campaign and got the money we needed. I was really worried that wouldn't happen. I was amazed. Larry Baker did a good job," Mangano said.
The extra dollars allowed the plans to include a commercial kitchen that can be rented for people to prepare their own food for special events. The board contracted with Clouse Construction to transform the building. Work began in early fall of 2013. Just before that, in May 2013, Diane Culver was hired as the center's executive director.
The Market Street section with the library and two large meeting rooms has remained intact so far. The wing facing Hopewell is being converted into two large craft rooms with an epoxy floor. The offices are to move into the renovated area until new offices are constructed in the former "man cave." A fitness room is to occupy the southwest corner of the building. A separate entrance is available to allow members access even when the center is closed.
"With all that is happening with the building, we are happy to report that all activities have been able to continue on a regular schedule," Culver said in the center's February 2014 newsletter. "Occasionally, we have had to move to different rooms, but everyone is taking the changes in stride and are just happy to be able to continue with their activities."
In January, the center's new outdoor signs were installed. Board secretary Jim Long helped design the new logo. The side door off the parking lot has become the center's main entrance. Eventually, it will have an outdoor canopy and cameras to monitor people coming and going. The door facing Hopewell Avenue has been shuttered. The wall along the parking lot has new windows to bring in more natural light and warmth. The rooms off Market Street probably may get a facelift, as well.
"We have more space where we are now. When the remodeling is done, it will be great," Mangano said. "Just putting those windows in along that side really helped."
As of the second week of February, Culver said the craft rooms had received one coat of paint. They were to get a second coat and new ceiling tiles. The flooring is set to go down the week of Feb. 25. The library is to remain in its current spot, near the Market Street door, but the size of the room may be altered to install the kitchen along the west wall of the building. The kitchen is the last major segment of the project.
"It's going to be three-and-a-half rooms long. ... It will be a licensed kitchen, a working kitchen," Culver said.
No date has been established for completion of the renovations, but a public open house is to be announced when that time comes. Visitors can get a preview of the remodeling as Allen Eiry Center offers "Game Time" 2-4 p.m. March 2 at the center. Members and guests can bring games from home or use the center's board games, card games, billiards and Wii bowling. The AEC plans to provide soft drinks, water and coffee, and participants are asked to bring snacks to share. The afternoon is free. Use the Market Street entrance.
Annual membership at the Allen Eiry Center is $25 per person and is open to anyone age 50 or older. Members receive a monthly newsletter with notices about the trips and activities. For more information, send e-mail to email@example.com or call (419) 448-9774.