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Health — and its costs — served by senior wellness center expansion

p13 Senior Services PlusBy DENNIS GRUBAUGH
    Senior Services Plus in Alton is building a 10,000-square-foot Wellness Center expansion that will serve the area’s growing base of aging citizens by helping them ward off the onset of inertia — and the costs that go with it.
    A successful, ongoing fundraising campaign called Pathways to Wellness led to ground-breaking in May at the rear of the senior center at 2603 N. Rodgers Ave., Alton.  
    “It’s really for a couple of purposes,” Executive Director John Becker said. “One is to improve the opportunity for affordable wellness for the growing senior base in Madison County. Right now, we’re at about 54,000 people over the age of 60. In 15 years, it’s going to be over 73,000.”
    The second thing is to generate memberships that will underwrite the cost of mission-driven services.
    “Meals on Wheels, information assistance, transportation — we just don’t ever want to be in a situation where we were two years ago, where we were going to be telling seniors reliant on Meals on Wheels that they’d have to be on a waiting list or to cut their meals because of the state cuts we went through,” Becker said.
    The project is estimated at $2 million.
    “Right now, about $1.8 million has been committed — $1.6 million in cash and reserves, and another $280,000 in outstanding pledges,” Becker said.
    At the groundbreaking Becker announced that Alton attorney John Simmons and his wife Jayne had provided a substantial matching gift to the campaign, allowing the ground breaking to take place as soon as it did.
    The expansion will be a 10,000-square-foot facility with 6,000-square-foot open fitness floor with a walking track and a 2,200-square-foot exercise classroom.
    “Right now, our three wellness rooms of equipment are pushed into 4,400 square feet, so we’re actually tripling the amount of space. Right now, we have roughly 1,300 members. We’re going to be able to handle 3,000 to 6,000,” Becker told the Illinois Business Journal.
    The Wellness Center expansion will be directly behind the café portion of Senior Services and will take some of the center’s existing parking. However, that parking is eventually going to be expanded to account for any differences from 137 to 175 spaces.
    “We own about 4.3 acres. We’re just trying to use more of what we already have,” he said.
    The center is located in what was a former elementary school purchased years ago.
    The campaign will continue and additional money will be applied to improving the amenities of the wellness center and to purchasing equipment rather than renting it.
    “The best thing about the (donations) is we will be able to operate that center debt-free. We will not have to borrow for this project,” he said.
    The board “had some challenging conversations about this,” he said. “But it was never a question of if it would happen, it was only when.”
    The Wellness Center started in 2007 and was originally open only for senior citizens. It is now open to anyone 16 and older and offers a wide variety of classes and personal training.
    IMPACT Strategies, of Fairview Heights, will be the general contractor and Sheppard Morgan and Schwaab Inc., of Alton, will perform the civil engineering.
    On another note, performer Alison Krauss is returning as the headliner for the 9th annual Feed the Need Concert on Sept. 29, at the Alton Liberty Bank Amphitheater. The event serves as a major fundraiser for Senior Services Plus’ Meals on Wheels program.

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