Roughly 50 community residents and staff members gathered at the LOEL Center and Gardens on Thursday afternoon to not only commemorate the facility’s 35 years of service, but also to celebrate a major renovation project that has given the center a big facelift.
The center, a senior activity facility that opened in 1976, just wrapped up a $500,000 renovation project that included adding a new kitchen to the facility, a remodeled activity room, and new floors, doors and windows.
The project, which took two years to complete, was funded by community development block grants as well as donations made by the county and Lodi residents, said LOEL Center President and CEO Tracy Williams.
And throughout the process, Williams said employees were able to keep the center open so that Lodi community members could still come and enjoy games such as bingo as well as a hot meal with friends.
“If (center founder William Holz) was looking down, he would be a very happy man,” she said. “Seniors are the forgotten generation. I really never had grandparents that I was around or knew very well. ... Now it’s like I have 250 grandparents a day.”
Though senior community members come and go every day, Williams said she and her staff end up spending more time at the center than they do at their homes because they are “truly dedicated” to those they serve.
The new kitchen, for example, boasts more floor space and storage space, and allows the center’s chef John Haviland to serve between 65 and 100 individual meals to seniors at the center every day.
“I am very lucky to be working in here,” he said. “The renovation has given us so much to work with.”
In addition to the new kitchen, the newly remodeled activity room was also given a new name at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony — the John Gorman Activity Room.
Gorman was an advocate for Alzheimer’s disease patients who worked at the center until he passed away in December. Board member Ivan Suess presented Gorman’s widow, Bea Gorman, with a plaque detailing Gorman’s work and thanking him for his service to the center.
With its facelift, Wiliams said going forward that she hopes the center will be able to bring back the “Meals on Wheels” program, a service that Holz started using his own car when the center first opened.
While Holz passed out hot meals to senior citizens from his trunk, Williams said she hopes the center can utilize the large kitchen to prepare meals and give them out to those in need soon.
In the meantime, board member Ivan Suess said the center hopes to expand even further to provide more options for senior residents in and around Lodi.
“This is a place of encouragement and liveliness,” said Elsie Leary, whose husband used to sit on the center’s board of directors. “This is where you make long-time friendships. Everyone enjoys being here.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at email@example.com.