ATLAS closes shop after helping build senior center

After more than a decade of working toward a new senior center in Laurel, members of All Together for Laurel/Beltsville Area Seniors, or ATLAS, celebrated their success and began the process of disbanding at a celebratory luncheon Nov. 1.

Since its incorporation in June 2001, the ATLAS Charitable Corporation's mission had been to promote and support the funding and construction of a new senior center in the Laurel area, which was accomplished when the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center opened its doors last year. ATLAS had remained active since then to support the center as needed, and this year the group received the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association's group/organization award for its work and accomplishments on the senior center.

ATLAS members, former Prince George's County Council member Tom Dernoga and state Del. Barbara Frush together helped raise more than $9.5 million for construction of the center.

Through private and corporate donations, ATLAS funded the furnishing of the center with a grant of more than $300,000. On Nov. 1, ATLAS president Curt Curtis and vice president Nan Tripp presented facility manager Marybeth Dugan with a check for $50,000, to be used for the center's future needs and programs.

Preliminary talks about a senior center began in late 2000, when Tripp convened an ad hoc group to explore how the Laurel Senior Friendship Club could resurrect the idea of a new senior center, which was first suggested by club past president Chuck Hulberg in 1996. The committee decided to pursue building a senior center but because its charter and bylaws prohibited fundraising from the general public, ATLAS was created as a separate organization, and drew in officials from other senior clubs and organizations as well as neighborhood representatives. Using 2001 census data from the neighborhood level, the group produced a demographics analysis that supported the numbers of persons 65 and over in the target area, which was a 10-mile circle centered in the area of Laurel Regional Hospital.

State and city officials convened a task force to investigate the feasibility of a new senior center. After that task force concluded that a center was both needed and feasible, Dernoga arranged $4.5 million from the county for design and construction of the center.

Since opening at 7120 Contee Road on Aug. 26, 2011, Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center members having swiped their entry cards more than 200,000 times.

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