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Agency hosts open house

May 20, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - The Washington County Commission on Aging celebrated its move from the Alexander House on Hagerstown's Public Square to the Aspiring to Serve building, home of the REACH Cold Weather Shelter, on West Franklin Street Friday with a special program and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"We're thrilled to be in a place that truly honors those whom we serve," said Susan MacDonald, executive director of the commission, which offers help to senior citizens through a variety of programs, including meal, accounting and housekeeping services.

Board of Directors President John Kenney said that the commission was housed in the Alexander House on Public Square for more than 20 years, but the building was not always easy for someone using a walker or wheelchair to navigate, and parking was "a nightmare" for those served by the group.

Now, Kenney said to the more than 50 people gathered in the new office Friday morning, "We have a wonderful space that does not present structural barriers for people with difficulties, who have trouble with stairs."

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The new 7,600-square-foot fourth-floor office can be reached by elevator. Workers, who were scattered at the Alexander House, also will be able to communicate better, he said.

Kenney said senior citizens living at the Alexander House still will have meal services. They will be shuttled to a new meal site at Francis Murphy Apartments off Robinwood Drive, he said.

Aspiring to Serve Inc., a nonprofit corporation formed by Christ's Reformed Church, which is next door to the new building, a converted shoe factory at 140 W. Franklin St., also is home to REACH, Potomac Case Management and WIC (Women, Infants and Children), said Al Boyer, Aspiring to Serve marketing director and vice president of its board of directors.

"When we embarked on this project (the building), we wanted to do something for the community, something for the revitalization of Hagerstown," Boyer said.

Boyer said that Christ's Reformed Church, made up of about 600 members, raised $250,000 toward the project. The Washington County Commissioners contributed $385,934 toward the building, and a federal grant worth $75,000 has been awarded for the building, said Debbie Murray, county director of budget and finance.

"This is a good example of a public, private partnership," Boyer said.

In Christ's Reformed Church Rev. Don Stevenson's invocation, he said, "May the quality of life we all desire and deserve occupy this room."

"We're all aging whether we like it or not, some faster than others," Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said. "We're lucky to have an organization to take care of those needs."

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