Key step for new senior center in Southampton with $2.5M bequest officially in hand

Christina Johnson, Southampton’s senior center director, is excited that plans are underway for a new senior center to replace the one-room location it currently uses.

Christina Johnson, Southampton’s senior center director, is excited that plans are underway for a new senior center to replace the one-room location it currently uses. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 12-17-2023 4:00 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Older adults living in Southampton could enjoy a new senior center within the next five to six years, with the help of a substantial bequest from the estate of David “Red” Parsons which was presented to the Council on Aging last week.

“This is a very positive step, and it creates a very exciting atmosphere for everyone who comes here. … It’s exciting to tell people that we got the money and can finally move forward,” said Senior Center Director Christina Johnson.

In his will, Parsons — a Southampton resident who died in May 2021 — left the town nearly $2.5 million with the caveat that a feasibility study funded by his will for a new facility be completed within two years of his death.

In April, the Ad Hoc Senior Center Building Feasibility Committee and their consultant, Abacus Architects and Planners, completed a feasibility study detailing the current and projected needs of older adults in the town, and recommending potential sites and plans.

After the executor and the courts agreed that the feasibility committee met the requirements laid out in the will, the check was officially presented to the town last week.

“We so appreciate the thoughtfulness from David Parsons leaving this seed money to start the development of a new senior center,” said Janet Cain, chair of the Council on Aging board. “We’re very blessed that he did that because it really wasn’t on anybody’s horizons to start this initiative until this opportunity came up.”

With a laugh, Johnson said, “It’s certainly the biggest check I’ll ever see in my life.”

The current senior center, located at 210 College Highway, is made up of just one room. About a third of Southampton’s population, or around 2,000 people, is over 60 years old, and that number is expected to grow.

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“The center is very active, but we can only really do one activity at a time,” said Cain. “Our goal is to help them age at home, provide socialization and focus on wellness.

“To meet those requirements right now in a single room, we’re doing the best we can, but it falls very short of what’s really needed to support the older adults in our community,” she said.

Based on the feasibility study, the new space will need to be 12,000 square feet to meet the present and future needs of seniors in the town.

The property currently being looked at is 89 Clark St., though the feasibility study also identified 210 College Highway, 0 College Highway and 79 Clark St. as potential sites. The Gazette previously reported that the property owner of 89 Clark St., Ryan Geeleher, has expressed willingness to sell the property.

The total cost of the project presented in the feasibility report totals over $10 million.

“We are mindful that Southampton is also asking residents to approve a new public safety building, and we wouldn’t want to conflict with that,” said Johnson. “We are still in the very beginning stages of this, but it is a relief to have this money.”

For now, the town is in the process of creating a Senior Center Building Committee to center its efforts, and the Friends of the Southampton COA are in discussions with a fundraising organization to develop a capital campaign.

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com.