Ishpeming Senior Center adapting to new location

Ishpeming Senior Center Art Instructor Katherine Savu talks to members of her art class on Thursday while Kaye Fredrickson and Shirley Tyni look on. The weekly art class is one of many activities and services that continue to be offered at the new senior center facility at Phelps Square in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING — The sign from the former Ishpeming Senior Center location along Pine Street sits against a wall of the center’s new facility in the lower level of Phelps Square as a reminder: the things that matter remain.

The iconic sign that marked the main entrance of the now condemned building sits against the wall of the new, albeit temporary, Ishpeming Senior Center facility.

Center Director Elyse Bertucci said the sign is a reminder and a comfort that the senior center itself is a constant even when its physical location has to change.

“The building is important,” Bertucci said. “But it’s not the most important thing. It’s the people. Kathy Savu (the current center art teacher) painted that sign in the 1990s. Look at what good shape it’s in. It’s beautiful. I just couldn’t leave it there.”

The former city-owned facility at 320 S. Pine St. was condemned by the Marquette County Building Codes Department following an inspection required as part of a $2.2 million Community Development Block Grant application administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Ishpeming Commission on the Aging members are hopeful the grant application will provide the funding for construction of a new multipurpose senior center at 121 Greenwood St.

Bertucci said while the logistics of the move from the center’s former facility to its temporary home at Phelps Square are still being ironed out, the sense of community and the services offered remain constant.

“My caseworkers have done just an incredible job of staying in contact with clients. Until we moved here they were working a combination of the time out of their homes, meeting clients in their homes, which they still do anyhow, or in public places like at the library, because we had to stay in contact,” Bertucci said. “When we moved in here, it was important that as soon as a senior walks in, there is someone, a caseworker here. We want that face-to-face personal contact.”

She said many of the activities include the weekly art classes, the foot-care clinic, the legal clinic, tai chi classes offered through Northern Michigan University, Senior Pinochle, Joy of Color and the monthly Bell Auxiliary Lunch and Bingo every third Friday of the month.

She said other activities such as day trips, presentations and health screenings are listed in the Skylight senior newsletter and on the Ishpeming Multi-purpose Senior Center Facebook page.

One of the concerns about the Phelps Square location is the lack of convenient parking, but Bertucci said the fact that seniors have the choice of three entrances seems to alleviate some of those issues.

“I do know that the parking for the seniors is a little problematic,” Bertucci said. “One of the things we tell people if they have somebody who has mobility issues, or even somebody who is even using a wheelchair, to drop them off here at the Third Street entrance and then go and park. One of the things that we are doing as staff to make that easier is we are parking up — there is off-street parking up North Street; we park all the way up there, so we are not near the entrances.”

Bertucci and her staff have spent hours behind the scenes working on the logistics behind the move. The caseworkers’ offices are still being constructed, new electrical outlets need to be installed and internet and phone service is expected to be completed by Friday.

Until the phone is moved, the center can be reached at 906-204-0419 or 906-204-5681. Following the move, people can call 906-485-5527.

She said the little bit of extra effort required to visit the new location will be well worth it for those who have not had the opportunity.

“They really need to stop in and see it,” Bertucci said. “A lot of the people who stop in here, they are surprised. They say ‘Oh, this is nice.’ They are surprised by how bright and open, and I really do think bringing our tables and chairs — the ones we had at the senior center instead of using the ones that were here left over from Phelps — I think these add to the space.”

She is hopeful the center can be moved to its new permanent location in about 18 months if all goes well with the grant process.

“We have a letter of interest for 90% of the cost of construction, so we are hoping it will still be that,” she said.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.


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