A singular senior tribute

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Cover Story, Senior Living

Published on August 12, 2011 with No Comments

by Mike Siroky

It is at once a fulfillment of a mayoral campaign pledge and the completion of a dream.

But, most of all, when Hobart’s first dedicated senior center opens Aug. 12, it will be a tribute to the city’s much-valued older citizens.

Mayor Brian Snedecor made the repurposing of part of the former middle school into a senior center one of the campaign pledges of his first term in office.

Right on schedule, it will be open even before he is re-elected.

The City of Hobart and Legacy Foundation, Lake County’s leading philanthropic mission, took a $93,600 grant from the grant from the Maria Reiner Senior Citizens Fund to furnish the center, on the property which also houses the new police station, city courts, fireman and police training facilities near Fourth and New streets.

The 8,300-square-foot Maria Reiner Center will be open to Hobart residents and non-residents age 55 and over. It started with a $100,000 grant through Legacy Foundation in April. The furnishings grant allowed the purchase of furnishings, fitness equipment for the wellness center and other needs to complete the renovation.

“The Legacy Foundation Board of Directors has once again demonstrated its commitment and willingness to support a vital resource to the community,” Snedecor said. “Legacy Foundation has partnered with us to make this senior center a reality, providing senior citizens a place that allows social interaction and a place where they can receive important resources.

“We also thank Maria Reiner for her vision to benefit the seniors of this city.”

The Legacy Foundation manages the Maria Reiner Senior Citizens Fund along with more than 260 other funds providing grants and scholarships to benefit people throughout Lake County.

Reiner was a Hobart resident who left her estate to be used for Hobart senior citizens. Past grants from her fund have been used to establish and sustain the highly successful Hobart Senior Transportation Program, which provides low-cost vouchers for participating taxi and bus services, and for cultural and civic events open to seniors.

“The Legacy Foundation is thrilled to manage the Maria Reiner Fund,” said Harry J. Vande Velde III, president and chief executive officer of Legacy Foundation. “We know the city will benefit citizens for generations to come because of her fantastic philanthropic foresight.”

He said just this week he had been on site in anticipation of the opening.

“I was lucky enough to go over and see how things are going and to meet with a gathering of people working on it,” Vande Velde said.

“This will be truly the talk of Hobart and Lake County and of Northwest Indiana for years to come.”

He sees so much positive energy for Hobart.

“This is going to be one of the greatest hooks for realtors in Hobart,” he observed.

“When you walk in, you’ll see the Café, an aquarium. the library, classrooms, game tables, a room for quiet meditation pool tables . . .  it’s gonna be a really, truly great place.”

The 2010 census saw the city of Hobart grow by 14.5 percent with 29,059 residents counted, Snedecor said.

“Thirty percent of our residents are senior citizens,” the mayor said.

“So not only is this a campaign pledge met, but met for a great part of our city. Our seniors have made Hobart what it is. They deserve a place for fellowship, to come where there are like-minded people to visit with, play cards or whatever.

“The pool tables, for instance, are brand-new. The whole place is brand-new.”

Snedecor points our the former middle school classrooms can now be used by folks who have not been in class for awhile, but have a hunger to learn.

“It’s another commitment to providing quality of life issues that we think are so important to our older segment of this community.

“I keep thinking for the atmosphere of social interaction, all different types of classroom trainings, the theater for shows, the kitchen and the café, it’s fulfilling a vision that has long been requested by our citizens.”

Vande Velde said it gave him a special feel as well: “I wanna be elderly and live in Hobart.”

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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