Construction is officially underway for the much anticipated senior center expansion.
County officials and local residents gathered behind the Margie Weaver Senior Center on July 18 for a ceremonial groundbreaking that signified the beginning of construction for the Pauline Stephens Ivey Senior Center.
“This is a great day for Dawson County and its citizens where we’re beginning the construction on the Pauline Stephens Ivey Senior Center and the renovation of our Veterans Memorial Park,” Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said. “That covers the gambit of our citizens from our senior citizens down to our very youngest, and we’re excited about this opportunity that we have and all those that have helped us.”
The new senior center has been in the works since the spring of 2017 when Betty Ann Bagley, trustee of the Pauline S. Ivey estate, called director of the senior center Dawn Pruett with a generous offer.
“She called me. I was in Kroger getting groceries or something for the center,” Pruett recalled. “We talked and we talked about family and we reminisced and then she told me she had some money to give us.”
Pruett said she never expected to receive close to one million dollars for the construction of a new senior center and expansion of its programs.
“I thought she might give us $100,000. Well believe me, I’m Baptist. I was in tears when this lady gave us $944,000,” Pruett said.
Ivey died at the age of 97 in 2014. Bagley, who is Ivey's second cousin, has worked to give 95 percent of Ivey’s estate back to the citizens of Dawson County.
“She was a great lady,” Pruett said. “She loved Dawson County and as Betty Ann said ‘she loved her people, very, very much.’”
Current plans for the Pauline Stephens Ivey Senior Center show a new 4,800 square foot expansion to the right of the existing Margie Weaver Senior Center. The single-level facility will be connected to the existing center with a covered breezeway.
“This Margie Weaver Center will always be the Margie Weaver Center. This is what our plans are. We’re going to hold all of our exercise, activities here, our art and expand for all kinds of future things we can offer our seniors,” Pruett said. “Our new center will be for our day-to-day activities. We’ll serve Meals on Wheels there that’ll go out. We’ll serve a daily meal. We’ll have a fellowship room and it’ll just be our day-to-day activities.”
Plans for the new facility include a multipurpose room for lunch and special events, a game room with computers, a conference room, an Alzheimer’s respite care room, a movie room, a commercial kitchen and lots of storage space.
“We’re blessed having two facilities named after two truly great women,” Pruett said. “It’s so great to see what is happening in this park.”
Expanding the senior center isn’t the only exciting news for Veterans Memorial Park. The groundbreaking ceremony also signified the construction of a new family pavilion to replace the current pavilion near the senior center.
Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne provided an update on the revitalization project underway at the park, which includes the new state-of-the-art pavilion as well as a multipurpose field.
“Our Field 3 up here, that’s going to be moved down. We’re going to have a big, beautiful multi-purpose field that’s going to be right there. We’ll be able to do an enormous amount of different things there, and of course our big nugget in this is going to be our brand new pavilion. We are so excited about the pavilion,” Payne said.
Payne said the current pavilion has held a lot of great memories for those in Dawson County, but that while some might be sad to see it gone, it served a great purpose.
“We’re just so excited to be able to serve the citizens of Dawson County the way that they deserve to be served,” Payne said.
Thurmond said he’s looking forward to when “we actually walk in these new facilities and get that opportunity to put those to good use for everybody that lives here.”
“I’m excited. I’m proud to be a Dawson Countian. I hope you are as well. It’s a great community to live in,” Thurmond said. “I was blessed to be here my whole life and to get the opportunity to work with the citizens of this county for my whole life. I cherish that. I cherish that as one of the greatest things that I’ve ever had the opportunity to do.”