Work, support get new center for seniors

POWHATAN POINT — Persistence, hard work and generous support from Belmont County and private interests helped this community gain a new and renovated senior center.

More than 40 area seniors gathered at the new location at 155 Clark St., a former Jehovah’s Witness hall, on Thursday to thank XTO Energy for a donation of $20,000. Melda Gallaher, president of the Powhatan Senior Association, welcomed all.

“It took awhile, but we’re here,” Gallaher said. “This journey has been long, one year upcoming, but everything is beautiful.”

XTO spokeswoman Karen Matusic said she was struck by the determination and persistence of the senior association members.

“I came down and met with the folks and listened to their story and decided this was a very worthwhile project for us to invest in,” she said. “I liked what I heard and got permission from my company to make this donation.”

She said XTO is invested in the community where it is doing business.

“We are drilling and we have pads around here in the Powhatan/Bellaire/Shadyside area. We like to give back, certainly, where our activities are centered,” she said. “It warms my heart to be able to give back. We drill in your community and we produce gas in your community, and you have been more than gracious hosts to us.”

Gallaher said the donation will go toward paying for the renovation work completed at the center. She pointed out the new flooring, cupboards, electrical service, sinks and the remodeling of a wall partition.

“We had to make some changes to the building for our seniors,” she said. “It will help pay for that.”

Gallaher also thanked Ralph Heller of Heller Construction and Brian’s Refrigeration for the work. Thanks also went to building owner Nathan Lehman of the Powhatan Point area. Representatives of the Powhatan American Legion were also present.

Gallaher added that the previous senior center, which was owned by the association, faced several problems. Due to its location near Captina Creek, the seniors had faced the possibility of flooding and frequently had to pack up and stay away during inclement weather. In addition, the increasing traffic through the village meant that an already-inconvenient parking spot across the road had become dangerous.

“We are so blessed to be here now,” she said. “This place is bigger than our other place was. We can have more exercises. We can have more activities.”

“Going across the road was a main concern. We were afraid people were going to get hit. In fact, we had one senior that almost did get hit,” village resident Joe Jeffers said.

“This building was very much needed,” resident Rose Gray said. “Every time the creek came up, we’d have to get a U-haul trailer, load everything up in the U-haul, move it to higher grounds, come back in, unload, pack everything back up.”

“This came together literally in about a month and a half, from the time they signed the lease to the day we moved them over here. I believe the second week of April,” Belmont County Department of Senior Services Director Gary Armitage said, adding that since the building had served as a church in the past, many important features such as handicap-accessible restrooms were already in place. “This was a labor of love. These guys were really motivated.”

Armitage said he was impressed with the outpouring of support for the senior center association.

“This donation is actually for the association, not the county,” he said, adding that the county has agreed to lease the new center location for $1,000 a month and to cover the cost of utilities, while the association paid for the renovations. “The county will continue to support them through our lease and cover some of the operating expenses, but the association members were pivotal in getting this building to the condition it’s in.”

He added that Powhatan Point has a very active senior association.

“They’ve been in existence for over 30 years down here. It actually pre-dates Senior Services,” Armitage said.

Gallaher also recognized Ann Korner and Olie McGuire, both in their 90s, as two of the oldest members.

“It’s nice,” Korner said.

“We’ve got a lot of room in here,” McGuire said. “I went (to the old senior center) all the time. This is a much nicer place.”

“We’re blessed to have people like that here, too,” Gallaher said, adding that all seniors in the community are welcome. “We’re all just like a big family here.”