Anniversary celebration held at Bogalusa Senior Center

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, September 29, 2013

A recent celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Bogalusa Senior Center moving into its Cassidy Park site was attended by local seniors, staff members and special guests.

The center at 603 Willis Ave. opened its doors Sept. 30, 2003.

Following an introduction by Council on Aging Director Nancy McBeth, Mayor Charles Mizell made some remarks about the occasion. He thanked his predecessor for his work in making the new senior center a reality.

“Mack McGehee had the foresight and the ability to make this happen,” he said.

Mizell thanked the seniors for allowing him to serve them and discussed the improvements being made at the park.

“We want to make sure that the access from here is open and available for you,” he said. “As we move forward, I think you’re going to see more and more activities there that you’ll enjoy and appreciate.”

Jane Rester, the COA director at the time of the center’s opening, shared some background information about the facility and her memories of working with local seniors.

She said the Council on Aging is a nonprofit organization supported by state and federal funds and a local millage. The organization had no money when she went to work there in 1975. When she was hired she said she established a nutrition program for parish seniors.

There were no building facilities, so the COA had to go to the local schools for space and food. Rester said Pleasant Hill Elementary School was the first Bogalusa meal site. After about a year the Senior Center moved into a building on Austin Street and later purchased the facility through grant funds.

While they were happy to have a site, Rester said the building had problems such as leaks, and the windows and doors had to be boarded up due to vandalism. She said McGehee was invited to an event there, and when he saw the building, he said, “You need a new center.” He told Rester that a 4-mill tax renewal was coming up, and he wanted to get it passed for the Senior Center.

The board worked to get the millage passed, and it was approved by voters. Rester said the project proceeded from there. After various obstacles were overcome, the center was built. She said it is wonderful to have the building, but the celebration is really about the people who have been served by it.

After remembrances were shared by several attendees, McBeth recognized Bill Woodward, who often writes about the Senior Center in his column in The Daily News.

She also provided additional information about the budget struggles of the past. She said the parish COA millage, passed in 2007, provided a tremendous boost to the organization. Prior to that, she said there was always a question about how the council would be able to keep its doors open and maintain its meal and transportation programs.

“That changed everything,” she said. “We eliminated our waiting list. Right now in Washington Parish, anyone who wants a hot meal or a homebound meal, they get it as long as they meet the state requirement.

“That’s our commitment from the Council on Aging, that is the way it will be. We do not want a senior citizen in Washington Parish to want for a meal. We’re proud of that. We’re proud of our community.”

McBeth also discussed the impact a donation started by Billy Nielsen and continued by his son, Bill Nielsen, has made on the Senior Center.

Taking care of people was something his father believed in, Nielsen said, adding his father taught him that the things you do become the legacy you leave.

“I’m proud to tell you I had a great dad and I have a good mother,” he said.

The anniversary celebration concluded with a performance of “If I Can Help Somebody” by Maevella Moore, accompanied on piano by London Johnson, and then refreshments.