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Senior center celebrates renovations

Austin’s Helen Knutson, 86, does not have much time for recreation. The retired second- and third-grade teacher stays busy as a volunteer Bible teacher at nursing homes — but, now and then, she tries to carve out an hour or two to spend at the local senior center.

“I can’t believe it’s the same building,” Knutson said at the grand re-opening of the Mower County Senior Center Thursday.

“I thought it was nice before,” she added. “But, now it’s really something.”

A ribbon cutting and open house were held at the senior center Thursday afternoon to celebrate the newly renovated building and its 35 years of existence.

Senior Center director Sara Schafer said some renovations began in August, and work was fully underway by December.

“There’s not a wall that hasn’t been touched,” she said.

Among changes — paid for by the Hormel Foundation, the city and fundraisers — is a new recreation room and relocated office space.

Advocacy offices were moved towards an entrance to make them more convenient, and a new rec room boasts a mounted flat-screen TV with a Nintendo Wii and several pool tables.

Schafer said the Wii has been very popular.

Across the hall, a used-clothing store has been turned into a coffee and snack shop — complete with a TV that is always on a news station, several computer stations and lounge and board game areas.

Bathrooms were also renovated; and new carpet and fresh paint are seen throughout the building.

In addition to sprucing up its space, the senior center is also beefing up some of its programming.

“We’re transitioning to offer more and more evening programs,” Schafer said.

This was made possible when Arc — which used to occupy space in the building in the evenings — moved into its own new space adjacent to the senior center in January.

Last week, the center held a belly dancing class which Schafer said was fun and well-received.

The building was similarly received at the re-opening Thursday, which included tours, treats and drawings.

“I think everything is so nice and modern,” Knutson said. “It’s very workable for people who are retired. It also gives people a nice, comfortable place to volunteer.”