By Shawn Byrne
“It’s the little things that mean the most” is a sentiment often used to express happiness, and it fits for those who receive and those who deliver community services now that the George and Vi Wellik Wickenburg Community Services Center has opened its doors to the community.
The new senior center at the former Gatehouse building on West Wickenburg Way and Yavapai Street has more than doubled the amount of space in which the center was housed on North Washington Street.
Wickenburg Community Services Corporation (WCSC), in partnership with Foundation for Senior Living (FSL), offers community support through its Freedom Express transportation program, community food bank, emergency clothing, weatherization for homes, deposits for utilities or utility assistance, help with evictions, and referrals to other community help.
“We’re very excited about our new building that will house the CAP office, senior center, and Freedom Express,” said Patty Sickles, WCSC president, in a press release. “It’s 12,500 square feet, which will double our size from the old building. It features a new dining room, game room, classrooms, and computers. We’re pleased to continue our partnership with FSL and look forward to serving the community together.”
Services based out of the new center began Jan. 27, and WCSC christened its new beginnings with an open house Saturday, Feb. 8. It was standing-room only in the dining room that allows 144 people to sit and eat comfortably during the center’s lunchtime meals served Monday-Friday.
“It’s beautiful. It’s wide open and has more lighting. It’s really nice. It’s a fresh start,” said Barbara Ann Bowerbank, who frequently uses the center. “I like the bigger dining room. It just feels like it isn’t so cramped.”
The new place has only been open for a little more than two weeks, so it is expected some of the kinks still need to be worked out. The staff at the center is certain to make sure that happens sooner rather than later.
“It’s coming together,” said Charlie Petersen, WCSC and FSL program director. “We served lunch at the Wise Owl on Friday (Jan. 24) and then served lunch here on Monday (Jan. 27). We have some things that still need to be put away. We’ve got our offices pretty much put together, and we’re having classes.”
If there is a hang up with the new center, it’s that the capital funding for the building has fallen short. There is a balance of about $1.7 million, and the project contractor, Bailey Construction out of Scottsdale, is carrying the balance.
WSCS does have a two-year bridge loan to payoff Bailey and is continuing its process with the USDA for a long-term loan. WCSC is also in discussions with two entities and a possible third one for grant money to pay off the balance, Petersen said.
“It’s a real big thing that Bailey Construction is doing,” Petersen said. “We’re hopeful (grant funding) is going to happen. We’ve given a few tours of the building, and we’ve received favorable responses. Everyone loves the place.”
Petersen has also announced he will retire at the end of March, and Karla Mortimer will take his place. Mortimer is already on staff and will have nearly two months to learn the ropes before Petersen departs.
“She seems to be a really good fit personality-wise with everyone,” Petersen said. “She’s talented, she’s funny, and the seniors are going to love her.”
The seniors already love one of the small things that count the most at the center, too.
“We’ve got doors on the stalls (in the bathroom) instead of curtains like the old place,” said Mary Rothrock, a client at the center. “And the toilets flush.”
The community services center hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. For more information, call (928) 684-7894.