Central Crossing Senior Center, Mercy celebrate grand opening

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Nick Whelan, D.P.T., guides member Wilma Hilton of Shell Knob on use of the treadmill. A variety of equipment will be available to facilitate physical therapy services. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

New addition adds 6,600 square feet for total cost of $300K

The paint was still drying, but spirits were high Wednesday as the Central Crossing Senior Center in Shell Knob and Mercy Therapy Center celebrated a combined grand opening for the senior center's addition and the Mercy Therapy Center, a project several years in the making.

The dining area where opening ceremonies were held was packed with guests who came to share in the long-awaited celebration.

Members and guests listen as Jerry Arnold, chief operating officer for the Central Crossing Senior Center in Shell Knob, gives the opening speech for the opening ceremonies to dedicate the newly completed 6,600-square-foot Melba Eakin addition of the center, and the Mercy Therapy Center, which includes 1,300 square feet and is dedicated to providing area seniors with physical therapy services so they don't have to travel. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"This is the day we've been waiting for," said Jerry Arnold, chief operating officer for the center. "It's a culmination of what we've been doing for two years."

The previously 7,000-square-foot facility, which was running out of room for the more than 20 activities hosted there, is now 13,600 square feet, almost doubling in size with the 6,600-square-foot addition. Construction, which began a year and a half ago, was completed at under $50 per square foot and was financed in large part with a bequest from the Melba Eakin estate. Total cost was estimated at approximately $300,000.

The newly-renovated addition, which is named after Eakin, is all-metal framed and energy efficient with spray foam insulation, specialized climate control and complete LED lighting. A new sound system and new TVs were donated by local businesses and individuals, and many of the center's new rooms are available for sponsorship.

Eakin was a previous member who was among the original group of five, who in 1998, shared a common dream to have a senior center. The others included Charlie Garrison, Richard Neirman, Denzel Nonhof and Glen Phillips. Each gave a $10 donation for a total of $50 and volunteered hours of work to make the center a reality. Arnold, who opened the ceremony, said the center turned that $50 into a value of over $1 million with the addition.

Melba was well-liked, resourceful and admired by her fellow members, Arnold said.

"Melba died about three years ago," he said. "She was a regular member. At one point, she was vice president of the board. She was a hard worker. When she got hold of something, she wouldn't let it go. She was good with people as far as fundraising also."

The addition includes nine new rooms, expanded some existing rooms and providing a fitness room, game and activity rooms, a library, a quilting room, a conference room, an expanded dining area, a commercial kitchen, a storage area, a janitorial room, a computer room, new bathrooms and a 1,300-square-foot room Mercy is leasing for physical therapy services.

Activities include cards, dominos, quilting, wood carving, Mah Jongg, line dancing, exercising, foot and nail clinics, reading, educational programs, Medicare assistance, computer programs and use, income tax assistance, wellness clinics, physical therapy services and medical equipment.

"It's such a good organization," said Jeff Harp, chief publicity officer.

Harp became familiar with the center as a volunteer, delivering meals. He said he believes the center has grown fast and stands out from other centers in the area because of its people and volunteers. The center has won four consecutive Silver Spoon awards and never received a single violation from Barry County Health Department inspections.

Center Administrator Sara Patterson said she thinks the new addition is fantastic.

"It's wonderful because we may have two or three things going on at the same time and may have to set people in the closet because we didn't have enough room," she said. "And now, we do."

Patterson said she wanted the public to know the center is not limited for those of a specific age.

"The senior center is also for people 50 or above to get out and do things," she said.

Janet Horine, volunteer and senior center member, said she helps by delivering meals, doing Medicare consulting and just socializing.

"I work and play here," she said. "To me, the expansion means more opportunities to bring more people in."

"We are really happy with it," Arnold said. "It has been a long time coming. We started in 2003, but have just outgrown."

For Mercy, the expansion has been a long time coming, too.

Chris Hoge, director of therapy services at Cassville, Aurora and Shell Knob, is already familiar with many Shell Knob patients.

"We see people from Shell Knob all the time, and we're constantly hearing it's a hardship with time and money for them to come to travel," he said. "A lot said they couldn't do it anymore. So, when this opportunity came up, we jumped on it so that people can get the services they need. The most important issue was with gas and the roads."

Dr. Nick Whelan, D.P.T., who works at Mercy Hospital in Cassville, will be providing physical therapy services from 8-4 p.m. on Wednesdays. He will be providing basic physical therapy services, including therapies typically provided after shoulder and knee services or for muscular-skeletal injuries.

"I already have a full day next Wednesday," he said.

Whelan believes the services will eventually be offered more than one day a week.

"I bet it will be two to three days a week in the next couple years," he said. "A lot of my patients are from Shell Knob, so it will be helpful for them to have something close to home."

Doug Stroemel, administrator for Mercy in Cassville, Aurora and Berryville, Ark., was pleased with the therapy room.

"We're very excited to be part of the growth," he said.. "This has been a dream for about three years of the people in the community. I've had the opportunity to work with. It became obvious very quickly there was a definite need for physical therapy services in the Shell Knob community."

Now that the majority of renovations and the celebration is over, life is back to business and the usual buzz of activity for members, who anticipate an even busier center.

"The first thing we want to do is get this finished, then just letting people know it's here," Arnold said.

"I think it will make a difference," said Kay Standley, senior center member and quilter. "We're going to make our quilting room bigger because it's too small for us. I just enjoy coming up here.

"They're willing to work with you and to get things to help people or help them socialize, which is important when you're a senior and you're alone. I think it's a big improvement, and I think people will use the center."

For more information on the senior center, to participate in any of its activities, physical therapy services, or to inquire about a sponsorship, people may call the center at 417-858-6952, or visit it at 20801 Highway YY-15 in Shell Knob.

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