The Mt. Juliet Senor Activity Center is bursting at the seams, and there's finally a very real chance for a brand new facility within reach that will double its size.
Center Director Linda McClanahan said the longtime Mt. Juliet Crawford family has "generously" donated about 20 acres as a site for a new senior activity center near the current facility and behind Mt. Juliet Church of Christ.
She said Darrell Crawford is in the process of developing Stoney Creek Senior Lifestyle Community, and the land donation is on that land parcel.
The crux of the land donation is the center has only two years to raise the estimated $2 million needed to build the new facility. However, McClanahan said it's not a pie in the sky goal and believes "anything is possible," and already the land donation proves the community has a buy-in with the center and will support a campaign to make a new building a reality.
Community already shows support
McClanahan said she realizes this journey to a new center comes on the heels of the YMCA's less than spectacular capital campaign to build a fitness facility in Mt. Juliet. Planners saw that campaign grind to a halt and was stopped until further notice because of a lack of donations.
"But, the fact we had land donated tells us the community truly supports us," said McClanahan. "I truly believe two years is long enough to raise enough money to make it happen."
Additionally, a recent GNRC (Greater Nashville Regional Council) report says 30 percent of the population in Wilson County is over 60 years old; a statistic McClanahan said further convinces her there's a need for larger senior citizen space and enough people to support it through donations.
"No donation is too small," she said.
McClanahan wanted to make it clear the proposed new center will still be a community senior center.
"We draw from Lebanon, Donelson, Del Webb and beyond," she said. "Even though the new center will be located in the Stoney complex, we are open to everyone."
Center outgrows itself
The current center has been around for over 30 years, according to McClanahan. She said the old two-story building - which has had various uses through the years, even a jail - was deeded to the center from the City of Mt. Juliet in 1984. It had a 10,000-square-foot addition built onto it about 15 years ago.
This year they are tracking to have 1,000 paying members with 700 as of this month.
When McClanahan became director five years ago there were only 200 members and about 50 active participants.
"Today we have over 150 people a day take part in our over 100 programs," she said. "More space is much needed."
Every class and activity is full each day, especially their exercise classes which are taught in the multi-purpose room. McClanahan said each class volunteer must break down all the table and chairs and move them out in order to obtain enough space.
"We are utilizing every inch of this building," she said.
Also, because the current building is two stories, many of the seniors don't want to ride the elevator to the second floor and can't deal with the steps.
The new space will double the size of the current center to 18,772 square feet. The new multi-purpose room will accommodate more than 200 people. There are plans for an art room, billiard room, a large group exercise room for classes, an equipped workout room, a library/computer lab, offices, meeting rooms and more.
Local architect Sam Anderson designed the building based on specifications from the center's board.
"I think it will be fantastic," he said, noting the design is one story except for an atrium area at the entrance with a skylight. "The key features include a communal area where everyone can see everyone. There's also an area upfront where seniors can get coffee and a breakfast snack."
Donors will be recognized
McClanahan expounded on the atrium area where there is planned a "donor's wall," where the names of anyone who donated $1,000 or more to the project will be displayed. The space will also serve as an art gallery.
While the capital campaign has already started, a huge kickoff is planned for June when all the land donation paperwork is completed. McClanahan would not reveal details, she made sure to convince it will be "worthy of this great" journey to a new center.
"Right now we are raising funds in smaller ways," she said. "But, what we are looking for is to form a 'cabinet' of people interested in working with me.
"I would love to have people who can open doors to potential investors and donations," she said.
Knocking on the doors of big-time Mt. Juliet businesses that want a stake in the community is already in the plan.
"This is an exciting time to be involved in the center and in this community," said the director.
"Think of what it would feel like to know you've helped make things happen."
Each year the center gets small grants. They receive $1,400 from the city and other grants from the GNRC and United Way, as well as the county. But they need some heavy donations to reach their goal.
"We need one "angel" donator who will donate the entire amount," McClanahan said. "I've seen it happen before! Of course we'd name the building after them."
Because the center owns the building free and clear, in the future there's a real possibility it might be put on the real estate market. However, McClanahan said the proceeds of the sale would go toward possibly furnishing the new center, operational costs and boosting existing funds, not specific monies to build a new center.
In the meantime, the center grows day by day.
"I don't know what I would do without the senior center," said member Dot Burks. "After my husband died I was depressed and lost. I have made so many friends and the wonderful activities have brought joy back into my life."
For more information and to make a contribution please call McClanahan at 615-758-9114.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.