Dianne Jacobson was all smiles as she greeted a steady stream of visitors to the grand opening of the new Oneida County Department on Aging facility in Rhinelander last Wednesday.
“It’s so good to finally be here,” said Dianne, who is the director of the Oneida County Department on Aging. “This new facility is really going to be a plus for this area.”
While visitors munched on goodies, including a big chocolate cake, they toured the new building that will also house the Aging and Disability Resource Center of the Northwoods (ADRC) and on the upper level the Oneida County Health Department. That department is slated to move next week.
There were also two very special guests attending the grand opening. Roger and Laurie Phillips of Delafield stood next to a photo portrait of Ray and Del Link. Back in 2007, Ray donated $100,000 to go toward the construction or purchase of a new facility for area seniors, in memory of Del who had passed away in 2005. (Ray passed away last year.) When the donation was made, the family wished to remain anonymous, but on Wednesday their identity was revealed. Laurie is the daughter of the couple.
“My parents would have been so proud to see this new facility,” she said. “It was a great passion of my dad’s to help seniors and this was a dream for both my parents.”
This new facility has been a long time in the making. In 2007 the Department on Aging Committee started looking for a new location for the department, for a couple of reasons. One was that the senior population was growing at a fast pace in the Northwoods, and the former building on Thayer Street was outdated and cramped for all the activities and programs offered there.
Options ran the gamut from purchasing property from the YMCA to build new to remodeling a vacant car dealerships. And then Trig Solberg, who owned the Northern Advantage Job Center building, approached Gary Baier, chairman of the sub-committee formed to look for a new facility, about making the structure available to the county. In October of 2010 the county purchased it for $1.4 million, determining that it would be a perfect location for both a new senior center and for the health department.
Remodeling began in November 2011, and would include a new commercial kitchen, several offices and a welcoming reception area, including a dining room. Also included in the remodel would be office spaces provided for the ADRC, a newly expanded governmental program that includes not only Oneida County, but Forest, Vilas and Taylor counties as well as three Native American tribes. This agency provides information, assistance and advocacy to older adults and persons with disabilities to promote healthy choices, independence and an enhanced quality of life.
Already the new facility is seeing an uptick in use. That can readily be observed in the attendance numbers at the noon meal that is prepared at the facility every day.
“We had between five to 10 people attend that meal on Thayer Street, and now we are seeing about 40 people coming in,” said Dianne. “And I think once the colder months come, we will also see more seniors visiting.”
With more space and roomier accommodations, programs are expected to expand. The center offers a place for seniors to gather for exercise classes, writing classes, arts and crafts courses and more. In addition, about 100 meals are staged there for the home delivery program.
And as people packed the building last Wednesday, taking tours, greeting friends and munching on goodies it was obvious everyone was impressed.
“This is truly a very beautiful facility,” said one visitor, “but it’s also in such a perfect location. That’s what I really like about it.”
Dianne would have to agree, and is proud to work in such a welcoming place where seniors can get a nourishing, hot meal, meet with friends or learn about programs they can utilize to make their lives easier and more fulfilling.
“This is really an asset not only for seniors, but the entire community as well,” she said. “Everyone’s hard work has really paid off.”
Editor’s note: To see more photos of Wednesday’s open house at the new Oneida Senior Center, visit our StarJournaloNOW.com photo gallery.