Martinsburg loses house, gains space in senior center

October 10, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Gloria Greene sat on the steps that once led to her home as West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood, other elected officials and guests were leaving the groundbreaking for the expansion of the Berkeley Senior Center.

"I had to be here today," Greene said after the ceremony. She and her husband John had lived there for 16 years until Berkeley County purchased, then demolished their home to make way for the senior center project.

"We were blessed with having a new home and also blessed with the idea of having a place for the senior citizens to come and continue with their lives as they grow older," said Greene, who now lives in the Wildflower Creek subdivision.


In a somewhat ironic twist, the woman who gave up her home for the senior center works at a nursing home - Heartland of Martinsburg. Greene is a housekeeping and laundry supervisor at Heartland and attended the center's groundbreaking with its administrator.

Lillian Garman was sporting a Senior Kickers T-shirt at the ceremony.

"It's a dance group. We meet twice a week ... It's a lot of fun and it's good exercise," Garman said of the country dancing club.

Once the expansion is completed in about a year, the Senior Kickers and others who use the cafeteria for group activities will have more room to kick up their heels. The 6,500-square-foot addition will also eliminate the need to move all the tables and chairs to make room for their activities.

Underwood was the youngest governor in West Virginia's history when first elected in 1956. Elected again in 1996, he's now the oldest governor the state has ever had.

"West Virginia has the highest number of senior citizens per capita of any state in the nation," Underwood told the audience of about 200 under a hot October sun. To deal with the challenges of an aging population, he created a cabinet-level bureau.

"The Bureau for Senior Services is an effort to bring all senior citizen programs under one umbrella in state government, so there's no chance of duplication of efforts," the governor told them.

"By expanding this center and the services it provides, Berkeley Senior Services is laying a strong foundation to meet the changing needs of the region's aging population," Underwood said. He noted seniors are living longer, more active lives, meaning the need for services will continue to increase.

Underwood talked of promoting physical fitness and the prevention of illness among older people through such innovations as the walking track at the center, which has several exercise stations. He also spoke of creating an "intranet" to connect all the state's centers by computer.

Underwood came bearing a $30,000 check from the Governor's Contingency Fund, which he presented to Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley. County Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham noted that Douglas had been instrumental in securing $265,000 in state funding for the expansion.

Other funding included $625,000 in federal dollars and $125,000 in cash and in-kind services from the county for demolition of part of the center and the purchase and demolition of the Greenes' house. Berkeley County Senior Services has raised another $300,000.

Eileen Dooley, director of senior services, said the total for the project is about $1.4 million, with about $90,000 left to be raised. Last month the county commission awarded a $1.2 million contract for the center expansion to a Martinsburg contractor.

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