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NEW FACILITY IS HOME TO ALL OF TOWN'S SENIOR SERVICES

After 38 years of being spread out in the community, a new senior citizen facility in Amherst brings all the town's senior services under one roof.

Now one building is home to all of the agency's 65 classes, the Meals on Wheels program, the Senior Outreach services and more. Located at 370 John James Audubon Parkway, the facility will have a grand opening celebration from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 28.

Before it opened last month, the Amherst Center for Senior Services was run from several satellite locations, said Assistant Director Gayle A. Thornton. Now that the new center is up and running, many seniors are getting fresh glimpses at old programs.

"Some are using some of the services for the first time," Thornton said. "They got used to going to one building, so they didn't use services that were offered at different locations. They are enthused now. Our parking lot is full all the time."

Inside, there is a spacious lounge, many large rooms designed for specific activities, a new health resource room, a gift shop, a terrace and other special features. Health classes and discussion groups are offered, and senior citizens can participate in art classes and learn how to paint in oils and watercolors to enhance creativity. Also, there's a needlework class and a creative-quilting class. Seniors also may get a workout in yoga and aerobics classes. Adjacent to the center is a pathway around Audubon Lake.

"Having all of our services based together will enable us to better coordinate community services to seniors," said Mary Ellen Walsh, the center's executive director. And that makes life easier for the seniors and the staff.

"We serve more than 180 people a warm meal and a cold meal though Meals on Wheels, and our in-house nutrition program serves an average of 125 people a day," Thornton said. "We now have a dedicated dining room for 125. Before, we had to take down chairs and put them back up again."

An average of 700 to 800 seniors a day come through the doors of the new 53,000-square-foot building, Thornton said. About 30 full- and part-time staffers run the facility.

"That's for everything," Thornton said. "In the kitchen serving meals, delivering meals, the outreach program, maintenance, everything."

Featured at the grand opening will be the center's first art exhibit -- "Portraits of the Aging," a watercolor exhibit by Milly Sheffer.

Supported by a $1,200 grant from the Orleans County Office of Aging, Sheffer compiled the collection after an administrator at a Medina senior residence center linked her with her first subject. That led to others from the residence and in her rural community agreeing to sit for her. More than 30 of those paintings have been mounted for the show.

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