Post Cresent Article:
APPLETON - The Thompson Center on Lourdes will stay put for another 10 years and get some TLC for its 55-year-old facility. Thompson Center officials announced Monday that the senior center had signed a new lease with St. Bernadette Parish, in addition to getting $290,000 in grants from the city of Appleton and community donors to fund building improvements.
"But we need to remember this: What happens here is not about the building," said Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna at Monday's announcement at the Thompson Center on Lourdes. "It's about the relationships, the activities that happen. That's what's really important."
The Thompson Community Center in downtown Appleton closed in March 2016 after Lutheran Social Services announced it couldn't afford to keep the center open because of the operational costs. The Thompson Center on Lourdes, located in the former St. Bernadette school, opened soon after as a temporary solution to keep the programming going.
Now it appears the temporary tag can be removed.
In addition to $90,000 from the city, retired golf pro Mary Beth Nienhaus also donated two matching grants totaling $200,000 to help with renovations and support the center's operating budget.
Overall, the building improvements and parking updates will cost $1.3 million.
The first phase, which includes life safety improvements for power and lighting, was completed this fall at a cost of nearly $180,000. Appleton paid $60,000 of those costs while St. Bernadette parishioners covered the rest.
The second phase, to replace the HVAC system, starting this month, will cost nearly $250,000. Appleton again will contribute $30,000. Part of Nienhaus' matching grants will fund a portion of it, in addition to community donations.
The third phase, to reconstruct the parking lot, will cost nearly $765,000 and be covered by both parishioners and community donations.
Future improvements will also include pickle ball courts, a walking path around the parish's acres, an outdoor patio and a hoop house for year-round gardening.
"We'll be serving the needs and expectations of older adults for at least 10 years and more if the need is still there," said Ray Zuelke, president of the board of directors for the Thompson Center on Lourdes.
Zuelke added that the Thompson Center on Lourdes has applied for nonprofit status, and will be able to accept donations when that is complete.
"After the closure of TCC, members didn't envision this kind of success with the Thompson Center on Lourdes this early on," said Marilyn Peterson, president of the center's Civic League, which handles social events at the center.
"We had a lot of hope for this to be a good solution for us, but it went way beyond what we thought would happen," Peterson said.
"Despite Monday's announcement, studies by a task force focused on a long-term solution for a new senior center will continue its work," Zuelke said. "Right now, a needs-gap analysis is being completed to find what is still needed that the Thompson Center on Lourdes and other community partners don't offer."
"What I've tried to do is direct conversations around services for older adults toward programming and understanding that we don't need to foster competition for programming," Hanna said. "We need to find what programming exists and support that programming like what we have here, and then understand what the other needs are and find ways to make sure that those needs are met, whether they'te in this building or whether they're somewhere else." ♦
WIXX article: http://wixx.com/news/articles/2018/jan/08/senior-centers-location-becoming-permanent/
WBAY article (with video): http://www.wbay.com/content/news/A-Second-Home-for-Appleton-Seniors-468352593.html