The ceremonial ribbon won't be cut until Friday, but Taneytown seniors already are flocking to their new center on Roberts Mill Road, at Antrim Street.

While many of the regular members said they enjoyedmeeting in their former space at the Thunderhead Lanes bowling alley, they like the new center because of the longer hours and increased space and a general sense that it's their own.

"I think everything is real pretty," said Germaine Strzelczyk of McMullen Road. "I used the exercise bike. I did two miles."

Strzelczyk, 67, said she also enjoys a music appreciation series, in which guest speakers come once a month. Another man spoke on contemporary religion.

In addition to an exercise bicycle, the game room also has a pool table and a collection of supplies for other games such as cards and bingo.

The center also has living, conference, library and crafts rooms and a full kitchen. The 5,000 square feet were renovated at a cost of $775,000, which included the cost of buying the old warehouse.

"I don't think you could ask for any more," Strzelczyk said.

Seniors can see the center for themselves from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Lunch is served every day at 11:30 a.m. As with all county senior centers, the meals are offered for whatever donation the senior can afford. Most pay about $1.25. Members also volunteer to do the serving and cleanup.

A ribbon-cutting party willbe conducted at 2 p.m. Friday, with local officials present.

Jolene Sullivan, director of the Department of Aging, said one of the nicest things about the new center is its location in the middle of town, within walking distance for many seniors.

Charles Irvin, 68, of Emmitsburg, outgoing president of the center, said he hoped the new facility's convenience would attract more people.

So far, the dailycrowd has been 30 to 50 patrons, compared to the usual 10 or 12 a day at the bowling alley, Irvin said.

However, even at the alley, the center used to draw 50 people whenever Charles "Sponnie" Smith of Taneytown cooked fried chicken for everyone. Smith also works local fairs during the summer.

He plans a few fried chicken feeds to get the new center off to a good start, he said.

"If you gotta feed 'em, that's what we're going to do," said Smith, 73.

The main and largest room is where lunch is served every day. But the center also serves as a place for seniors to meet, socialize and stay active with crafts and other activities.

"Some don't want a meal," Irvin said. "They didn't have to buy one, but afterward, there wasn't a whole lot to do (at the bowling alley)."

Even for avid bowlers such as he, once or twice a week is enough to keep the activity from getting old, he said.

Also, the center hours at their borrowed space in the bowling alley were 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The space was basically one room, plus use of the snack bar area. There was little room for crafts, and no room for a kiln to bake ceramics.

Seniors bowled on Mondays after lunch, and those who bowl will still meet at the alley on Monday afternoons.

The bowling alley's snack bar is one feature the seniors say they will miss in their new center. If they didn't like the regular menu for a particular day, they used to have the option of ordering a hamburger or something else from the snack bar, even if they had to pay a little extra, said Emma Wildasin, site manager.

The bowling alley still will prepare lunches for seniors, but will serve them at the center, Wildasin said.

Despite the limitations, Wildasin, Irvin and nearly all the seniors said they appreciated meeting rent-free at the bowling alley. It was their idea to ask to meet there in1987. They had been meeting at Northwest Middle School and going to bowl Monday afternoons, when they just decided it would be nice to meet at the alley every day, Irvin said.

Irvin admitted some seniorswill take a while to get used to the new digs, no matter how much nicer they are.

"Older people are hard to accept change sometimes," Irvin said. Also, the new center has some kinks to work out, he said.

The heating system last week fluctuated between working too much and not enough; the new television needs to be programmed to get morechannels; one day they ran out of butter for the bread; and another day there was no tartar sauce for the fish.

But the problems were all minor, Irvin said.

Harry Dougherty of Taney Drive, a retired grocer and member of the Orphans Court, said the most important service the center offers him is a place to see people every day.

"There's nothing like people," Dougherty said. "That's what keeps you going."

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