Senior Center lease extended as search for permanent home continues in South Deerfield

  • The South County Senior Center is leasing a temporary space in the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church’s Pope St. John Paul II Center at 29 Sugarloaf St. in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The closed South County Senior Center on North Main Street in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/21/2022 10:41:38 AM
Modified: 5/21/2022 10:41:19 AM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — With a lease extension through December, the South County Senior Center will spend at least the rest of the year at the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church.

The lease extension will be in effect while Deerfield prepares to undertake renovations on the South Deerfield Congregational Church, which will be used for a long-term, temporary location for the Senior Center while a permanent building is explored.

The Senior Center found a temporary winter home in the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church’s Pope St. John Paul II Center in November as the towns of Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately sought to move the seniors inside, from their previous outdoor tent, during the cold-weather months. The lease, through which the Senior Center pays $1,000 per month, was set to expire on June 30, but was extended through Dec. 31, according to Deerfield Town Administrator Kayce Warren.

The plan, according to Senior Center Board of Oversight member and Deerfield Selectboard Chair Trevor McDaniel, is to house the seniors in the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church through the end of the lease, while beginning interior renovations on the South Deerfield Congregational Church in the fall. Deerfield residents appropriated $150,000 for church renovations at October’s Special Town Meeting.

“It’s not a ton of work, but it’s just enough to have a space,” he said, “while we figure out what we can build.”

The renovations include creating accessible bathrooms, minor changes to the kitchen, creating an office for Senior Center staff and the public health nurse, as well as mini splits for heating and cooling the building. McDaniel estimated the renovations could be finished by the time the lease ends in December.

The town is also working on feasibility studies and architectural plans for the Senior Center building next to the congregational church. If the town can find a financially viable way, it would renovate the building into a multi-use Town Hall with the Senior Center as an addition. The Senior Center building on North Main Street closed to the public due to the pandemic in 2020 and never reopened as an environmental assessment last year found the presence of asbestos, mold and lead paint. Senior Center staff members still use the offices on the first floor and a COVID-19 testing site began operating there in March.

“We’re searching for all of these ideas and places where we can do something and find funding,” McDaniel said. “I think the process is moving along, it’s just slow.”

In the meantime, South County Senior Center Director Jennifer Remillard said a tent will be assembled on the Senior Center’s lawn by the end of May to offer additional outdoor programming. The tent will be used on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church space will continue to be used on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The Senior Center has added birding activities and additional exercise programs, and has scheduled the annual picnic for June 15, which will be held under the tent from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the theme of “garden party.”

For updates on South County Senior Center programming, visit the center’s Facebook page, sign up for the monthly newsletter by emailing scsc@town.deerfield.ma.us, or visit the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, at 29 Sugarloaf St., on Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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