Finally, MLK Older Adult Center is open for activities

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For at least  20 years, some say more, North Philadelphians fought, pushed and lobbied for a better seniors center than the one housed inside the MLK Recreation Center at 22nd and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

Spirits were high in April when Mayor Kenney and other city officials joined seniors for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the construction of the new $4.3 million MLK Older Adult Center, right across the street from the rec facility.

But for four months, the new building sat dormant, wrapped up in red tape like occupancy permits and real estate transfers.

Monday, all that waiting paid off. Seniors finally walked through the doors of the new center at 2100-06 W. Cecil B. Moore Ave. and were able to shoot pool, play cards and chat with friends. The 10,000 square-foot center had opened for real.

Gloria Odom and Regina Thomas seemed most excited to see the arts and craft room at the new Martin Luther King Older Adult Center.

“It’s so roomy. It’s just beautiful,” said Odom, 65, a retired U.S. Postal Worker, as she and Thomas walked into a room with two new tables for crafts.  “It’s light. It’s airy. It’s cheery.”

Odom paused. “It’s not only that it’s light. We’ve got outside light. That’s God light.  And that makes it better.”

Glitches in the kitchen needed to be addressed to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, city Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said last month. Without the certificate, formal ownership could not be transferred from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to the city.

The property was transferred Wednesday. The last of the furniture was moved in Friday.

Besides the arts and crafts room with its brand new wood cabinets and granite counter tops, there are two large open rooms in front, one for billiards and another for card games, and smaller classrooms for Bible Study, computer instruction, and exercising.

At the old center, Bible Study met just three days a week because the class shared a room used with computer classes.

“Now we have more space to increase our programs,” said Michelle Wilkins, a social worker.

Donald Flippen, 74, one of the several men playing pool said he was not upset about the delay.

“I knew it still had to pass inspection,” said the retired construction worker.  “But it turned out great.”

Lorraine Moore, 76, a former food service supervisor for the Philadelphia School District, said “You can smell the newness. It’s like having a new house or a new car – you’ve got to feel good.”

Sydella Hodge, 84, a retired seamstress, was a bit less charitable. It was not fair to have a ribbon cutting in April then make everyone wait, she said. “It should have been opened right after the ribbon cutting.”

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