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Sparks Senior Center gets facelift
by Garrett Valenzuela
Sep 05, 2012 | 3926 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Michelle McDonald, of the Reno-Sparks Leadership class, shares a hug with Shirley Hendrix before a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Michelle McDonald, of the Reno-Sparks Leadership class, shares a hug with Shirley Hendrix before a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
SPARKS – Michelle McDonald inherited about 20 grandparents over the past several months working with senior citizens at the Sparks Senior Citizens Center. McDonald, who has seen the passing of all her grandparents, was overcome with emotion Wednesday when she took the microphone to address the Reno-Sparks Leadership (RSL) class.

The RSL joined senior citizens, Sparks Mayor Geno Martini and community supporters in the “grand re-opening” of the Sparks Senior Center Wednesday as they celebrated the completed interior renovation with a ribbon cutting ceremony. McDonald took the lead role in organizing plans for the renovation, saying that her passion for helping senior citizens fueled the project.

“I have been over here and had lunch with the seniors a handful of times and they really have kind of adopted me,” she said. “It’s meant a lot to me to be able to be a part of (the project) and just see the smiles on their faces at the end of the day that a community was able to come together to support them and give back to them.”

The renovations done by the RSL, a program formed through the Chamber of Commerce, provided repainting of the walls, new carpet throughout the building, re-upholstery to furniture, updated artwork, a new defibrillator and an ADA-accessible front desk. The RSL brought in more than $18,000 in cash donations and another $15,000 of in-kind donations to fund the project.

Tom Young, co-chairman of the construction committee for RSL, said the collaboration among community businesses and organizations made the renovations swift and achievable. He said the new energy-efficient lighting was attributed to Washoe County, RC Willey donated all of the carpet and REMSA donated the new defibrillator.

The leadership class also had help from Sierra Nevada Job Corp who painted all of the walls with donated paint from Reno Paint Mart, while the Washoe County Sheriff’s inmate crews improved landscaping conditions, moved furniture and helped pull up the carpet and tear down the front desk.

“This was a huge collaboration among the entire community,” Young said. “We could not have done this without the help of the donors, the Job Corp students and all of the help from the seniors who come here.”

Young said the decision of the leadership team to renovate this particular facility included several factors. He said the building’s 1991 original construction date made it long overdue for improvements, but he stressed the amenities the senior center provides to the community’s elderly.

“I think a lot of people forget about our seniors and that many of them are on a fixed income. It provides a meal that is affordable and provides a community for them to come down and socialize with their peers,” he said. “I think people have to realize that this building is not abandoned. Now it will have a new look and people can come and enjoy their experience here.”

McDonald experienced the interaction among the senior center’s occupants first hand and said the services provided by the facility often go unnoticed, but have a district value to those involved in them daily. “Some of the seniors don’t have any family so they come here for interaction, they come here for support and this is now a place where they can enjoy being here,” she said. “I think the entire (leadership) class is now really invested in the (facility) and we all want to make sure that everything stays up to date and well taken care of. I think many of us will be down here much more often to interact with the people who helped make this possible.”

Shirley Hendrix, a member of the Sparks Special Seniors program at the Sparks Senior Citizens Center, said approving renovations and assembling activities could be difficult when working with Washoe County. She said because the RSL was not affiliated with the county, the improvements avoided an extensive county process and allowed the improvements to take effect immediately.

Hendrix, who has been affiliated with and advocated for the senior center, said the communication and partnership with the RSL proved crucial in initializing the improvements.

“They invited a few of us to their big fundraiser and we were treated like queens there,” she said. “They were all friendly and they hugged us and it was like a family group. It was wonderful.”

Hendrix said the social outreach that the senior center provides could only be amplified by the improvements to the interior.

“There really is no place for us to be social, and that is what this place provides is a social interaction,” she said. “People can come here and have their card games and bingo, and it’s just another home. I think we will have more people showing up for our activities because of (the improvements) and people will want to stay here longer.”

The Sparks Senior Citizens Center will be undergoing exterior renovations worth more than $99,000 after receiving approval from Sparks City Council in August. The project will be the first exterior renovation designed to focus on water drainage patterns and water tightness of the exterior.

Exterior improvements are in response to the significant water damage to the roof and increased stucco damage near the front entrance. The city noted water collection in the flat areas of the roof and ice continually deteriorating the building as key causes of the damage.
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