By Jessica Tuggle
SEBASTIAN - After an outpouring of generosity from the community, Sebastian seniors have a spacious activities center once again.
Last week, senior citizens living in Sebastian celebrated a soft opening of the new Senior Activities Center of Sebastian with card games, snacks and laughter. About two dozen people came together in the city building behind the Sebastian Art Center, formerly the Keep Indian River Beautiful building.
Financial and in-kind donations, plus some elbow grease from individuals and local businesses, helped renovate the building in less than two months, said Andrea Coy, Sebastian city councilwoman and an outspoken advocate for the city's senior population.
The grand opening of the center will be held on Sept. 28 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., she said.
Exclamations of surprise and pleasure fell from the lips of everyone who walked through the door into the newly carpeted and freshly painted rooms. New card tables were quickly set up for four-deck Canasta, one of the favorite card games of the group.
Previously, the group of seniors would meet in the Sebastian Senior Center on Davis Street, operated by the Senior Resource Association, but in recent months, the group has been feeling crowded, said Mary McGee, one of the program advisors for the group.
The facility was being shared with the Senior Resource Association's adult daycare and sharing the space just wasn't working out, she said.
After contacting members of the Sebastian City Council and presenting their request for help with a new facility, city manager Al Minner allowed them to move into an empty city building near city hall.
"This room, the main room alone is three times the size of the other place," Ms. Coy said.
Ms. Coy said she was impressed with the seniors' organization up to this point.
"They are organizing themselves. They have a board of directors and they're filling out the paperwork to be their own nonprofit," she said.
Regular players walked in and started storing items for everyday use inside cabinets and began unloading books onto bookshelves. Felt and fleece table covers were also brought in to cut down on the noise of dominos clattering against a table.
"This belongs to the seniors of Sebastian, not the city of Sebastian. The building does belong to the city, but the rest belongs to the seniors," Ms. McGee said.
The Senior Resource Association recently announced the Vero Beach activities center would be repurposed for adult daycare as well, so Vero Beach seniors may soon have to find someplace else to play games and hold dances.
The Sebastian senior group does not yet have a phone number or website with all of their activity information, so the best place for information currently is to drop in, Ms. McGee said.
Hours will be 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the next several weeks. Eventually, the group hopes to expand their hours.