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Senior center, library groundbreaking brings excitement

Leonardtown, MD - It was warm and sunny, which made the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Garvey Senior Center and Leonardtown Library all the more exciting for those who were a part of making this happen Tuesday, May 15. St. Mary's County Commissioners President Randy Guy as well as commissioners Todd Morgan and Mike Hewitt were in attendance. State Senator Steve Waugh, and Superintendent Dr. James Smith also attended this groundbreaking ceremony. The St. Mary's County Administrator Dr. Rebecca Bridgett, served as the emcee during this event. 

The current buildings that house these two centers are small, uncomfortable and barely able to be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. A change had to occur, and that started back in 2014, when the Garvey Council (formerly the Garvey Group) got together and obtained over 3,288 signatures from citizens for a petition to move the planning of this concept up from fiscal year 2018 to fiscal year 2016, according to Dale Taylor, president of the Garvey Senior Activity Center Council. The county commissioners saw a need and a desire, and motioned to move the planning of this new building up to fiscal year 2016.

The Leonardtown Library, Garvey Senior Center, Department of Aging and Human Services, and county commissioners sat down and started the plans to make this happen. The commissioners found a build site and contacted Grimm and Parker Architecture, Inc. to design the concept and Tuckman-Barbee Construction Co., Inc. to be the builders for this new center. When all is said and done, the new building will be approximately 45,500 square feet, will cost $21.5 million dollars, and will take between 18 and 24 months to complete. 

Guy spoke about what this new building will mean for him, in addition to the community, as he works at the Garvey Senior Activity Center twice a week. "This is truly a great example of what happens when citizens not only get involved but become advocates for a cause", Guy said in his remarks. He also stated that they were spending money to make not only the library but the Garvey Senior Center ADA-compliant, but the facility was losing space by trying to make it compliant, prior to this project. In the president's final remarks, he mentioned the 2010 census. In that census, it was determined that the State of Maryland's population was expected to grow by 125 percent in seniors, between 2010 and 2030, but that St. Mary's County senior citizen population was expected to grow by 245 percent between those same years.

Lori Jennings- Harris, director of the Department of Aging and Human Services, said that she started working in this position about 12 years ago, and mentioned when she started, they put new flooring, new paint, and new furniture, but even then, they were outgrowing the facility.  "Putting the shovels in the ground gets us one step closer to the ribbon cutting" Jennings-Harris said in her closing remarks.

St. Mary's County Library Board President Carolyn Guy, talked about the upgrades that are due to come to the library and the senior center. "The library will offer expanded space, meeting rooms, computer training rooms, and a comfortable place to read, listen to music and do research."  She went on to explain that the senior center will have "an expanded dining area, pickleball courts, and larger areas for physical activities." She thanked the citizens of St. Mary's County for standing behind them and seeing the need for this project.

Juanita Nether, chairperson for the Commission of Aging, spoke humorously about the Garvey Council, a group of seniors that began around four years ago.  "They usually don't take no, at least not the first three times, they want to know when and why, they don't quit until the job is done. And so here we are at this point." 

Contact Suzzi Copeland at S.copeland@thebaynet.com

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