WOONSOCKET – The Woonsocket Senior Center, now offering services to residents for 39 years, is getting all-new kitchen equipment and other upgrades.
The City Council last week approved up to $30,000 worth of improvements for the center for replacement kitchen equipment at the center from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, including a new ice machine, a pizza oven, and hot food and serving counter.
What many don’t know is the number of activities the Gaston A. Ayotte Jr. Memorial Senior Center offers seniors in the area to keep them physically and mentally healthy, said Executive Director Barbara Waterman, as well as to help them recover from injuries.
In 2009, Senior Services was awarded a Title IIIB grant from the Older Americans Act through the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs. Through that, they developed The Senior Wellness Project, a prevention program aimed at providing seniors in the community with the tools necessary to stay healthy and active. The program headed by Linda Thibault, provides health education, screenings, clinics, support groups, and exercise classes at the center. They provide an adult day care directed by Dana Chamberlain.
“Very few senior centers have that,” said Thibault.
During COVID, Waterman said there was a core group that helped the center get on despite what was happening outside. They provided online classes and helped distribute meals to the community. Thibault said COVID changed everyone’s lives, and one could see that impact on seniors. Today, she said, the parking lot is full again.
Staffers also work with many outside organizations to help provide activities and important informational sessions.
“They do a ton of things for the city and the seniors,” said Councilor Scott McGee during last week’s City Council meeting.
Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said McGee has been vital in getting quotes for upgrading kitchen equipment at the center.
Steve Healey, director of the congregate meal program, has been a resource in providing daily meals to the seniors who frequent the center. Baldelli-Hunt thanked him for his work and his involvement at the center, also thanking Public Works Director Steve D’Agostino and Planning Director Mike Debroisse for their new exercise equipment, and brought up the thought of one day moving it to another building.
The city also recently replaced back doors of the center so they are now fully accessible and compliant, and is moving on to making restrooms ADA compliant and getting outdoor seating.
Waterman said she has been thankful for the upgrades that have been done to date on the old building.
“They’ve all demonstrated a definite interest in what the needs of seniors are and how to, again, accommodate seniors in the best way,” she said of the council and administration.
Waterman said without her staff, who continue to be dedicated and love what they do, the program would not be as successful as it is. She recalled a story of a woman who was leaving one day and told her that the Senior Center was her life, and that goes for so many seniors who rely on it.
“I’m very fortunate because we have the best staff,” she said.
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