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Hear Us Roar, Older Residents Tell Palm Coast Council as They Clamor for a Senior Center

| April 12, 2016

palm coast senior center

For a brief time last fall the Palm Coast City Council eyed the Yacht Club as a combination nature center-senior center, but the club’s sale in December mooted that possibility. Seniors are still pressing for a center of their own. (© FlaglerLive)

The Palm Coast City Council is hearing clamors for one, two or nine new senior centers in town. But it doesn’t appear interested in moving in that direction: after hearing from half a dozen advocates for such a center at a meeting this morning, some of them passionately resolved not to let age define their commitment, the council merely deflected the agitation toward its planned expansion of the Palm Coast Community Center, which is due to start next year.

Some of the advocates say the city should not be confusing a community center with a senior center, though the distinctions can be difficult to see when even some of the same advocates concede that, but for lack of storage, the community center has been a fine home for their weekly activities.

For the council, the on-again, off-again rumble for senior centers is a story as old as Palm Coast—which is to say, not a very old story: the city is still in its mid-teens.

“Our seniors are not getting the proper acknowledgment that they should be getting,” Pastor Sims Jones of Palm Coast told the council this morning. He described the absence of a senior center as “a real crime,” and said any attempt to combine a community center with a senior center would dilute the mission of a senior center, creating conflicts and problems “because you’re trying to do two things in a building [where] they should be separate.” He did not explain precisely why activities or uses should be separate, or how current activities at the community center, which includes programs for the young, the old and in-betweeners, might be incompatible. But Jones asked for two senior centers in town. “It’s a vital thing that we need,” he said. “Our seniors are the ones who paved the way for us. Now we need to stand up for them.” (Another speaker would top Jones and ask for nine senior centers, claiming that’s the number in St. Augustine.)

In 2003, the city attempted to do just that. It floated a referendum to its electorate, proposing to build two senior centers, but not without a tax increase to pay for them. The proposal failed decisively.

Last fall the council took an interest in the property of the Palm Coast Yacht Club toward the north end of town. The club was for sale for around $1 million. The city’s relatively new Long Creek preserve is across the water, and due for a nature center, if the city is to stay in the good graces of the state’s conditional grants. The city theorized that it could buy the Yacht Club, use it for a nature center, and also for a senior center.

The city might have saved some money up front: a nature center could cost $2 million. But operating the new property as a senior center would have cost it recurring dollars it does not currently have.  Aside from Mayor Jon Netts—a former Yacht Club member—and council member Jason DeLorenzo, the idea never excited the rest of the council members. The recurring costs were a concern, as were the possible costs of renovation.

Seniors remind the council they’re not dead yet, but a senior center will remain unb orn.

By January, anyway, the idea was moot. The Yacht Club had sold. (What it sold for is not exactly clear: Flagler County Clerk of Court records show two transactions on Dec. 31, 2015. The first is of the Yacht Club selling the property to Light Source Consulting Group of North Carolina, for $906,800, the second, on the same day—though the property appraiser’s site lists the two transactions as Dec. 29 and Dec. 31—being a sale from Light Source to Palm Coast Commercial Inc., for $376,800. Jennifer Bonner, listed as the vice president of Palm Coast Commercial in the Department of State’s Division of Corporations documents, did not return a call Tuesday.)

“I have received confirmation that the yacht club property was sold to restaurant entrepreneurs,” City Manager Jim Landon wrote council members on Jan. 12. “I have heard they plan to open the club facilities to the public as a restaurant.”

The city comes out ahead in the deal: the Yacht Club property had been generating zero property taxes. Under new ownership, it will return to the tax rolls. But it also puts to rest any notion of a senior center there. The city for now is content with its community center, and is expanding uses of its community wing at City Hall in Town Center.

This morning the council was set for a laborious workshop as it focused on what it calls its “strategic action plan,” a fancy say of describing what had previously been more simply but more prosaically called a goal-setting session. Either way, those meetings don’t draw a crowd and require a hefty dose of caffeine to power through. Yet the workshop meeting room was unusually packed, mostly by silver-haired seniors. Extra chairs had to be brought in. Had they had a peek at the strategic plan and learned that senior centers might be on the horizon? No: senior centers were not discussed.

They were there because Annette Russo Pilgin, who established the People’s Friendship Club in 2010—it meets at the community center every Tuesday—decided to bring her membership to the council instead of holding the club’s regular session at the center, so she and others could make their case for a senior center to the council.

An inquiry about their interest might have prompted council members to shift the public participation portion of the meeting to the top of the agenda, so as not to make the large group of people wait two and a half hours. Other local governments do that routinely to accommodate large groups. Not Palm Coast, where protocol can be an end in itself.

Russo Pilgin was finally able to speak. When she started in 2010, she collected 350 members in three months, she told the council. “We didn’t have a space for them, we had to stop taking members, we had to turn away people.” The community center worked as a meeting place, but it has no storage place. “My house is the storage. We had a carnival for Mardi Gras, we built a float, then we had to break it down and store it in my house. Every event is stored at my house. We do so many things for seniors. When you hear the word seniors, you think Oh God, they’re over the hill. But we are not.”

That would be a recurring theme from the half dozen speakers who addressed the senior center issue. “I’m a senior. I am not dead. I am a viable source of energy,” one man said.

“You’re going to hear me another 20 years,” Russo Pilgin promised. “I’m going to be doing things. I’m going to be helping these people. They are my friends. I know what they’re going through because I’ve been there. When I was alone with nobody, thank God there was one club I could go to and make friends. There, I met my husband, and we said, we need more. We’ve got to have events, we’ve got to have programs.”

Those programs exist in Palm Coast—not least Russo Pilgin’s among them. But if it’s storage she and her group need, the renovation of the community center will solve that problem. “It’s hard to visualize how major of an expansion  or what this building is going to loo like, but nothing compared to what we have there now,” Landon, the city manager, said, promising an overview of the coming renovation soon.

And that was it as far as the council’s discussion of senior centers. The lunch hour was beckoning, as was adjournment minutes later.


29 Responses for “Hear Us Roar, Older Residents Tell Palm Coast Council as They Clamor for a Senior Center”

  1. wow really says:

    Just give them the HISTORICAL building for the Senior Center. Why such an issue.

  2. Charlie D says:

    They found money to build city hall. Why can’t they find money for a center. Oh right it doesn’t benefit them.

  3. Lin says:

    I truly don’t understand the need for dedicated buildings called senior centers since programs already exist and there is a community center and new city hall. There are also lots of clubs listed in the newspapers and on websites.

  4. T says:

    Do NOT give any group anything without taxing them or charging them user fees. My taxes should not be used for any special interest group.

  5. Kim says:

    A vibrant, busy senior center is so needed in Palm Coast. A truly effective senior center is more than a “club”. it’s a resource for learning, social engagement, referrals, health, nutrition and wellness. The National Council On Aging has very helpful material on how to develop a good center. NCOA also provides accreditation for the best programs. If you want to see an example of an accredited center follow this link:

  6. Kim says:

    T – I guess you’re not planning on getting old?

  7. PERCY'S MOTHER says:

    How about keeping the PC community center as a senior meeting place, and as for the storage issue, a decent-sized storage unit can be had for about $100 a month and that would solve storage issues.

    Then the question will arise as to who will pay for the storage unit. Monthly dues – I don’t want to hear about anyone being on a fixed income either.

  8. Maggie says:

    I don’t think there are any Historical buildings in Palm Coast, it was only built up in the 80’s wasn’t it? Hear from reading about it that it was nothing but marsh, nothing was here. After living here for 8 months I would love to move out because it is a crime ridden town (or city as you call it)…and I’m surprised there are any senior citizens still living here, it’s such a dangerous unfriendly town.

  9. Geezer says:

    Seniors, hear them roar, in numbers too big to ignore….

    As far as “special interest group” as a categorization–
    perhaps we should take a special interest in our elders.
    Older people were here first, and (most) paid taxes
    for many years.

    One of the things that signal the rot in our society is the
    lack of reverence we ascribe our oldest citizens.

    Seniors, respect them and appreciate them.

  10. Dave says:

    senior centers, so why not centers for the young people, the middle age people why a dedicated center for seniors. And I agree with T, maybe a special tax or a yearly fee like in Hammock Dunes (cost to live there) but this would only be for seniors that “use the center”.

  11. PCer says:

    If the seniors want a “center” then they should raise the money, find invetors and backers, and build it themselves? Why should my tax dollars pay for it? Isn’t that what seniors say about paying for schools, parks, and other community improvements?

    Besides, is the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club already a senior center of sorts. If they want one, then they should go use that. Most of them get free membership through silver sneakers anyway.

  12. tulip says:

    I think a dedicated senior center is an excellent idea. As Kim posted, there are many things that are provided for the seniors. People have to remember that although many seniors are active, they sometimes have physical or health limitations that prevent them from meeting people in their own age group because they don’t drive or can’t walk long distances, or because the neighborhoods have more younger families.

    Loneliness and lack of human contact and participation and lack of help with some things can be a devasting lifestyle. Everyone does things for children and animals but somehow don’t care about senior citizens who are, or will be, your parents, relatives and, if you’re lucky—you.

    For Seniors to have a place to go and be a part of life again is the least we can give them in the winter of their lives. The younger and middle aged group are far more mobile and can get around better and establish themselves. Our Seniors have raised families, worked for what they have, contributed to society and a few other things—give them their turn to have a place of their own with their own common interests and support groups.

  13. Ms. Lolo says:

    What about Belle Terre Swim & Racquet club it already has senior-friendly facilities, parking etc…

  14. jennifer says:

    The only complaint I saw is dedicated storage. Why would a senior center fix that? If the city paid for the center but not the items to be stored, then you are storing someone, or a group’s personal items. That group needs to find a way to pay for the storage facility – either with dues or fundraisers.

    Coaches using baseball or soccer fields must bring their equipment to and from the field.

    The point of having facilities is for people to meet, not a club house for people to bring their items and then complain if something gets moved or taken down. Community centers are a good idea because it allows different use of the facilities and doesn’t limit the building for a dedicated use for one group of residents.

  15. Felice Tanenbaum says:

    So many people come to Palm Coast to retire, a lot of them seniors. As one gets older, it seems harder to meet people – I believe there is a definite need for a senior center here. Seniors are looking to socialize more, have new friends and activities to look forward to. It’s a healthy thing…

    Annette and her husband have been a Godsend to many people in Palm Coast and beyond, with their social club. I feel as strong as they do about fulfilling the needs of seniors to have a facility to turn to where they can make friends and in some cases, be a part of life again.

  16. blondee says:

    @Maggie, I don’t think we’re living in the same Palm Coast.

  17. PCer says:

    Yes… a general community center is great. But not one that is only limited to use by one group of people.

  18. RAKA says:

    About a month ago at a Council meeting, I suggested that the City look into the Portugese American Club which will be vacated when the new much larger Center is built. It comes complete with a kitchen, meeting rooms, dining area and an activity area. Just right for a Senior Center. All I got was blank stares. We have two beautiful manicured dog parks but no Senior Center. We seniors know where we stand in the eyes of the City.

  19. Mayme Casady says:

    Have you noticed how many dog parks a re in PC ? Notice PC picks up the tab for the over run costs for golf courses to the tune of over $ 300,000./yr? Schools have facilities for the young and after school programs to keep them busy. I wouldn’t change a thing….however, seniors who don’t own dogs, nor golf, nor have school aged children have needs that should be addressed too. Currently, the community center has two rooms…no kitchen facilities (employees only.) The city runs two game day afternoon programs for over 30,000 tax paying seniors… You want seniors to pay a fee for use? How much do you charge for dog pee and poop?

  20. alp says:

    Where are there two dog parks in Palm Coast? The only one I know of has been undergoing renovations for almost two years and has not reopened. I really would like to know. My dog needs some exercise. The Wadsworth Dog Park is a Flagler County park and not in Palm Coast.

  21. Joanne says:

    Apparently you are not a senior citizen yet. You will be some day and may be alone. The difference between a senior and community center is exactly that. We need a senior center exclusivity for seniors so that we can have a place to meet other seniors. A place where clubs can hold their meetings, A place where we can do crafts, exercise, have socials, play games, dance, etc. Yes we have the VFW, Elks, IAC, and KOC but these clubs are mostly for people who have spouses or companions. Why shouldn’t PC have a senior center or even a few more. We have a very large population of seniors. In fact PC was a retirement area built by ITT. St. Augustine and Volusia have beautiful centers for their seniors why cant we? A portion of our seniors are presently meeting with private clubs. Some meet at the Community Center, McDonalds, Pine Lakes, private homes, etc. We want a centrally located senior center and not a renovated Community Center where parking is already a problem and they have many school programs. Our county commissioners are dragging their feet on this hoping it will go away. It will not go away as long as there are seniors.

  22. Mayme casady says:

    That $3 million makeover might just be for one PC dog park (and play area) but your dog is welcome to walk and play on leash in all the city’s parks…with a doggy park in the future. Seniors aren’t even on the planning board. The Community Center is hardly appropriate for an active senior center with all their other activities: , running student camps, voting, town meetings, and renting out rooms, etc. Staff is wonderful I must add but not trained in geriatrics. Seniors volunteer in school reading programs, hospitals, shelters, humane society, and town activities, etc. in addition to paying their taxes. They play a vital role in the community. It was an uneducated remark equating their need for a center mainly for storage.

  23. Geezer says:

    Are there any dog parks for senior canines–dogs over 7-years of age?

  24. David B says:

    I thought the David Seigle Senior Center on Belle Terra Parkway was for our elder residence.

  25. Mayme casady says:

    The David Seigle Center is an adult daycare not a center for seniors to meet and paticipate in activities .

    Re:GEEZER and his (senior) dog’s needs gets more attention from the city council than the 30,000+ senior citizens. $3 million set aside to update a park.

    The Community Center, with two rooms currently, hardly affords or plans activities for seniors. Waiting for the rented room to open, one is shhhhh-ed from talking in the hall as people are trying to work. It’s like having a meeting in a library….which in fact has more organized programs for adults than the community center. I want to promote the library’s free “adult art classes” on Thurs. afternoons. It’s wonderful.

    Libraries have moved from just housing books, papers, & magazines to meeting the needs of the community…including music cds , movies dvd’s. Internet, computers, printing, speakers, readings, book clubs, art classes and projecting ( family) movies …that’s more like a senior center than the two afternoon game dates per week offered at the community center. The library is hardly large enough for all the seniors that would get involved if programs were designed for their age group. That’s a Senior Center.

  26. Wings2C says:

    @tulip, @joanne and to all others commenting in support of a senior center & resources….WELL SAID. As the song said “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”. An RN for 30 years just short of retirement, moved to WI to be with my only child, got a great job and 6 months later the recession hit. I not only lost my career but also my house, car retirement funds, insurance, etc. Six months later??? A STROKE a!long with other chronic medical conditions requiring constant care. I was, eventually, able to move here with my Son. His family moved here before I was able go do so.

    I praise God this didn’t happen here or any where in the South (Alabama is my home). Wisconsin took really good care of me and my city was smaller than this one. Imagine this!! I got disability, medical care, Food share, access to food pantries, home care, housing assistance, care coordination and RELIABLE TRANSPORTATION!.

    And I pray those of you who seem to think growing old is a luxury aren’t ever faced with senior issues. This place is hard enough for those with ” normal lives” but try living here with no car, unreliable so called transportation service, ineligible for services because “you make too much on disability” which is apx 1\4 of my previous income. My food stamps were cut and I can’t afford the high costs here for the special diet I am on! Medicare’s a joke and insulting to someone who worked for years in the system. The rent is outrageous and the housing board program has been closed for years. Imagine that. Of course there are no funds to move.

    How many can relate to this scenario? I know I’m not the only one. It is common all over. The difference is many states and communities take care of their own. Don’t insult us even worse than the system does. We have provided a way for and/or raised most of your sorry elitists behinds anyway. You are providing a fine example for your grandchildren

  27. Wings2C says:

    Continued……and children for when you need them one day. I honestly have not seen or heard of a place wanting to keep the “element” out by not budgeting for the citizens first but filling there own pockets instead.

  28. Josie S. Araneta says:

    I am 77 now, and newly widowed, looking for other seniors with same interest, and who can still move. I was very active in the community since I arrived in 1990, one time President of the Philippine American Assn. of Palm Coast, 3-term President of the Palm Coast International Club, active in other community projects and given scholarships to the public high school when I was making good in real estate in the 90s, a taxpayer until now, never was on government dole or unemployment.
    Being active in the work force, and contributing not just time and effort in the Palm Coast community since I moved here in 1990, I am offended that Mr. T and others feels we are getting freebies when we ask for an activity center for senior citizens like me. I sent my 3 sons to catholic schools in NY, worked 2 full time jobs to do so because my husband had a heart attack in the late 70s, we were never on government dole or unemployment, just retired last December, and with my husband having passed away in January, find myself at a lost, not having a senior center to join, someplace to meet and still be viable members of the community.
    Although retired, most of us still pay taxes and most of it go to the school tax, which I’m sure Mr. T’s children are making use of, but we don’t mind, it’s all good, so what’s your problem, Mr. T., you think you’ll be young forever?

  29. Sandra Fletcher says:

    I have lived in Palm Coast since 2014 and I find there is too much double-standards BS (especially when it comes to City of Palm Coast employees). I call it CORRUPT GOVERNMENT! There are many many senior citizens residing in Palm Coast and they should be entitled to a Senior Center Facility. We all pay taxes in this city and funding for a Senior Center should be included in the City’s budget. You cannot expect to mix a Community Center (for the younger generation) needs with that of a Senior Center (for senior citizens). They are two different generations with very different interests. I would be interested in helping with plans, etc. for a Senior Center in Palm Coast.

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