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Plans for expanded community center may find wings

Warrenton Community Center could be expanded to include an area solely for senior citizens. (Cindy Yingst)
By Cindy Yingst, Friday, June 29, 2018

Turning hopes into reality can be difficult, but dreams seldom come true without a game plan.

The board of Warrenton Senior Citizens Inc. hopes to develop a winning strategy for an expansion of Warrenton Community Center.

“It’s a vision of some of our board members to provide a five-day-a-week experience,” said Don Mellison, one of four people on a task force for development of a senior center in Warrenton.

His group offers reduced-price meals for seniors on Mondays and Thursdays at the community center, which is owned by the city of Warrenton. But that’s about it for senior activities.

A designated space for seniors – whether a stand-alone senior center or an expansion of the city’s facility – could offer daily meals and serve as a drop-in center for socializing, games, classes and lectures.

“A number of us have gotten together and said we want a senior center added on to the existing community center,” said Gil Gramson, a former city manager and mayor and current task force member.

“We’re just getting the ball rolling,” he said. “The main thing is that there’s going to be more and more seniors. They need that place to go for socializing and interacting with other people. Otherwise, they can become isolated in their homes. Many are single, or widows, with limited contact with others.”

The city has no current plans to expand the community center, said April Clark, Warrenton’s finance director. “Funding would have to come from somewhere else.”

The task force toured Astoria’s senior center, which is open six days a week and brimming with classes in line dancing, exercise and yoga, plus activities such as movies, bridge, mahjong, bingo, writing, crocheting and shopping trips. There are computers, pool tables and reading nooks.

“If it ever came to fruition, it would pale in comparison to what they have in Astoria,” Mellison said. “It’s way beyond what we’re envisioning. … They told us 15 to 20 percent of members come from Warrenton already. I’m very uncertain in my mind if we could compete with them, No. 1, and if we want to.”

The task force plans to study both the feasibility and the need. Then it would seek money, such as a federal Community Development Block Grant, a federal program that combats blight and supports affordable housing, public infrastructure, seniors and those who are poor or disabled.

“That’s how we got the community center and Head Start building,” Gramson said. “Our meals program has been very successful. It’s one of the very few in the state that’s self-supporting.”

Warrenton Senior Citizens Inc. has money in an account from a participant who left a legacy endowment to the organization. The fund of $30,000 has grown to $38,000.

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