CARMEL, N.Y. - Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, was recently joined by county legislators, state lawmakers, members of her administration and county employees for the grand opening of the fully renovated and expanded senior citizens center in Carmel.

The Carmel Friendship Center, housed in the Donald B. Smith Government Campus on Old Route 6, opened Thursday, Dec. 19 after an 18-month renovation.

“This facility was once a school and now it’s a senior center, the circle of life,” said to the dozens of seniors who attended. “The challenges of the structure took us a little longer than anticipated. As a school, the building had narrow hallways and small classrooms. We knew that you guys wanted some space, you wanted to walk in comfort and be able to enjoy each other’s company while doing yoga, tai chi or shooting some pool, whatever you really want to do. Now you have the space to do it. “  

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The bright and airy 6,000-square-foot Friendship Center now includes a restaurant-sized dining room where more than 100 seniors can be comfortably served, an exercise room for yoga, tai chi and Zumba dancing, a game room with a billiard table, and a cozy sitting area where seniors can relax around a gas fireplace.  A nutrition office, Medicare counselor and caseworker will also be on site.

Before the renovation, the building housed a smaller senior center and several administrative offices. During the renovation, the senior citizens center was housed at the Knights of Columbus in Carmel.

“This was very high on my priority list when I took office and I know that my fellow legislators feel the same way,” Odell said.  “We recognize and appreciate our seniors. They are our teachers, they’re our mentors, they’re our grandparents, and they’re our neighbors. You guys are important to this county for everything that you’ve done and everything you continue to do with your volunteering. It was very important that we build you a space that you could appreciate and that you wanted to come to.”

Michael Cunningham, director of the Office for Senior Resources, noted that this was a big year for the office.

“We celebrated our 50th anniversary this year,” he said. “We also opened up, just before the year began, our Friendship Center in Philipstown. And now we are here to celebrate the opening of the Carmel Friendship Center.

“One of the worst things for seniors is isolation or loneliness,” Cunningham said. “What we are trying to do is make sure that by offering these services, with good nutrition and a lot of activities, we prevent that. If you look at the name of this facility, we call it the Carmel Friendship Center and that’s what we’re all about.” 

Odell thanked state Sen. Peter Harckham and Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, as well as former Sen. Terrence Murphy, for securing nearly $1 million in state grant money to complete the project.

“I am so impressed with this facility,” Harckham said. “This is such a home run. My predecessor Terrence Murphy got the first grant and I secured the second grant, and I was honored to follow suit. For our seniors, we spare no expense. You deserve it. You’re the ones who built this community into the wonderful place it is and now it’s our turn to pay you back. Enjoy this facility for many years to come. “

Fred Pena, Putnam County Commissioner of Highways and Facilities, and his staff did the lion’s share of the renovation work.

“I’m most proud of the collaborative effort involved in designing and constructing the Friendship Center,” Pena said. “We got input from the seniors and the folks at the Office for Senior Resources. More than 80 percent of the work was done by in-house staff, from our engineering and architectural divisions as well as the facilities and highway groups. All the trades—electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and laborers—added ideas and tweaked the design to be cost-effective. It was fantastic to work together to bring the seniors’ vision to life.”

Article courtesy of County Executive’s office