Original article posted on mcall.com
By Sarah M. WojcikSarah M. Wojcik, Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call
Word that 200 seniors from Whitehall were going to the Lehigh Valley Active Life Center on Elm Street in Allentown every year struck Whitehall Township Commissioner Jeffrey Dutt as a clear sign of demand.
Dutt, who was elected in November 2015, began his political campaign on the prospects of providing a community center for everyone in Whitehall. But a place where senior citizens could exercise, play games, take classes and make friends seemed to be a more pressing need.
"Just about every person I talked to that was 60 or older said we need more senior activities in Whitehall," Dutt said. "Years ago, there was a very active senior club in the township. We want to rekindle that."
After about two years of work, Whitehall's active life center will hold its grand opening from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday. It will be fully open to the public staring May 3. The center is located at the West Catasauqua Community Center, 2301 Pine St., which is township-owned and did not require any renovations, Dutt said.
Programs will include fitness classes, bingo, card club, dance lessons, art classes and history programs. Though classes aren't slated to start until May 3, sign-ups can begin Tuesday.
Hours at the Whitehall facility will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Friday, with hot lunches served each day.
Dutt said there's hope that demand for the center will eventually outgrow its current location and allow for expansion.
The center will be operated by administrators from the Lehigh Valley Active Life Center at 1633 Elm St., which is partially sponsored by the Lehigh County Office of Aging and Adult Services.
Diane Nolan, director of development and programming at Lehigh Valley Active Life, said the facility has always hosted a number of Whitehall residents.
Nolan said the offerings of a senior-centric community center provide big gains in quality-of- life improvement for residents.
"Especially after retirement, when our worlds shrink a little bit, this can make a difference," Nolan said. "It's important to socialize with our peers. Research shows that's beneficial."
Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza Jr. praised the volunteer efforts that went into transforming the idea of a senior center into a reality. The shortage of a haven for the township's senior citizens was a reoccurring issue, he said.
"As mayor, I have seen and spoken with many of our seniors who experience daily loneliness and lack of interaction," Hozza said. "This center will provide for them a space, activities, food and fellowship that will improve their well-being and quality of life."
Tuesday's grand opening will include giveaways and free food from Red Lobster, Carmel Kitchen and Wine Bar, Panera and Chik-fil-a, among others, as well as appearances by county, state and local officials, according to Jessica O'Donnell, senior vice president of central affiliated chambers with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.
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