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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

Bryan-area seniors cherish new center

Bryan-area residents get their first look at the entrance of the new, $1.8 million senior center during an open house. Bryan-area residents get their first look at the entrance of the new, $1.8 million senior center during an open house.
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BRYAN - Florence Brandt, her left hand resting atop a wooden cane, beamed yesterday as she sat for the first time inside the recently completed, $1.8 million Bryan Senior Center.

The 71-year-old volunteer wasn't the only one smiling about the finished product - a building that marks the first official home ever for senior citizens in this Williams County community.

“Everybody is just thrilled,” said Connie Smith, executive director of the county's branch Office on Aging. “The seniors can hardly wait to get in here Monday. They're very anxious. Some of them have been waiting 20 years for this.”

To mark a chapter in the project's history, Ms. Smith and other community leaders put on an elaborate open house yesterday to show off the new one-story building, which is just short of 10,000 square feet and sits on the city's south side.

Gov. Bob Taft shakes hands with Roma Benet. Gov. Bob Taft shakes hands with Roma Benet.
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The celebration included an appearance and short speech by Gov. Bob Taft, who was credited with helping to provide $450,000 in state money for construction.

The remainder of the project was paid for with private and local donations, notably $340,000 from the Bryan Area Foundation.

Bryan businessman George Isaac was recognized for donating the site after he and Ms. Smith scoured the city in the late 1990s for the right piece of land.

“This new, beautiful center is really the first building you can call home,” Mr. Taft told a crowd that filled the center's large activity room.

He then joked to the audience - about half of whom were senior citizens - that he should move to Williams County and retire so he could enjoy the center as well.

As he departed, Mr. Taft was surrounded in a hallway by several women, including the senior center's eldest member, who is 98, and the eldest volunteer, who is 90.

The governor spoke briefly to them and shook their hands.

In its past locations, Ms. Smith said the center typically attracted 50 to 60 people a day. At the new site, Ms. Smith said she expects to see about 75 people on a daily basis.

The center most recently was in the Bryan Eagles Lodge. Before that, gatherings were held in Wesley United Methodist Church.

Lunches previously made in Montpelier and shipped to the various makeshift Bryan sites now will be prepared at the Bryan Senior Center.

Mrs. Brandt, who admitted she had been eager to get inside before yesterday's event, said she is thrilled about volunteering in the new facility.

“It's beautiful,” she said.

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