Senior Center opens its doors at temporary location in Deerfield

  • Judy Targhetta, of Whately, Sharyn Paciorek, of South Deerfield, and Pat Karkut, also of South Deerfield, chat in the South County Senior Center’s new temporary space in the Pope St. John Paul II Center on Sugarloaf Street in South Deerfield on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sue Corey, program director of the South County Senior Center, is busy in the kitchen of the temporary space in the Pope St. John Paul II Center on Sugarloaf Street in South Deerfield on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The South County Senior Center has a new temporary space in the Pope St. John Paul II Center behind the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church on Sugarloaf Street in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2021 11:09:37 AM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — With winter on the horizon, recent South County Senior Center Board of Oversight meetings have emphasized the importance of finding a temporary location for seniors of Sunderland, Deerfield and Whately to socialize as cold weather makes the tent outside the currently closed Senior Center unsuitable.

On Friday, Program Coordinator Sue Corey organized an informal reception with coffee and snacks to welcome seniors to their temporary site at the Pope St. John Paul II Center in South Deerfield. The Senior Center will be housed there at least until spring.

“We are very, very thankful for Father John (Reardon) and the diocese to let us use this place,” Corey said. “I’m very happy the seniors have a warm place to gather.”

The Senior Center’s hours have changed with its location. The building, which is located at 29 Sugarloaf St., will be open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Grab-and-go meals will still be available daily from 11 to 11:45 a.m.

More than two dozen seniors from the three towns were once again able to converse over coffee, tea and breakfast pastries as they settled into their transitory home.

“We had a lot of good times at the other building,” commented Sunderland resident Steve Helgerson. “We hate to see it go.”

Helgerson added that more people may join the events as they become aware of the new location. He said the Pope St. John Paul II Center is a great place to stay, even if it’s just temporary.

“We had some seniors leave because they don’t know where to go,” he said. “But it’s nice we can come here, even if just for a while.”

Sharyn Paciorek, president of South County TRIAD, said it was nice to see some happiness on the seniors’ faces again as they were able to gather under a roof once more. The South County TRIAD is a partnership of law enforcement, community organizers and seniors.

“It’s nice to see some goodness, and good to get out from underneath that cold tent,” Paciorek said. “It’s nice to stand here and see this flow of people coming in. … I see some new faces this morning, which is definitely a plus.”

Paciorek said the Senior Center is an important social resource for older residents of the three towns, especially as winter approaches and outdoor events are limited.

She added the Pope St. John Paul II Center is only the first stop along the way as the Senior Center looks toward a permanent home.

“We can use this as a stopping ground and look to the future for a new building,” Paciorek said. “Our seniors deserve better.”

The future of the Senior Center is unclear as the three towns try to figure out a new space to house seniors. As of right now, the Board of Oversight is leaning on a three-step plan: house the seniors in the Deerfield Congregational Church for a short period of time; renovate the current Senior Center for approximately $50,000, which has been closed due to mold and asbestos concerns; and then potentially build a new Senior Center.

The issue, which Deerfield officials have brought up several times, is the lack of money to build a new Senior Center. Deerfield Select Board member and Senior Center Board of Oversight Chair Trevor McDaniel said the town will be moving the seniors to Deerfield Congregational Church — residents approved $150,000 in funding at October’s Special Town Meeting — as they evaluate other options.

“That’s the plan for now, we transition there and work on the new building,” McDaniel said. “It’s hard to find a new building. … We’ve got to find a solution that is affordable.”

Deerfield has several large projects in the works, including the Wastewater Treatment Plant; the proposed North Main Street park; and the new Tilton Library, which the town would like to join together with the Senior Center. The library project, however, cannot be conjoined with the Senior Center because the $4 million grant being used for the Tilton Library cannot be used for anything else.

McDaniel said this rule puts the town in a tough situation, saying small towns are put at a disadvantage because they need to combine buildings to save money.

“It’s unfortunate the state segregates it,” McDaniel said. “We’re not Wellesley. It doesn’t make sense to build a new building (when the Tilton Library is being rebuilt.)”

Despite the unclear future, McDaniel said the temporary location is a good place for seniors to gather and spend time together, especially after a year apart.

“It’s wonderful to have Father John and the congregation let us use this place. We’re grateful to have it,” McDaniel said. “It’s starting to get back to normal.”

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