MILLVILLE - It's Wednesday at the Millville Senior Center and banana pudding seems to be the hot item on the day's dessert menu.
In a room just off the entrance to Jaycee Plaza, one of Millville Housing Authority's senior high rise complexes, seniors enjoy conversation and a free lunch that's been provided to them.
With the tables and chairs and about 20 seniors, the feeling in the relatively small room is - to best describe it - cozy. A few more bodies in that lone dedicated space can make things uncomfortable.
For the past four years, seniors in Millville have been clamoring for a new senior center. They have made calls, written letters and, more recently, become a presence at City Commission meetings.
Things have progressed with both the city committing funds and county grant funding having become available, but seniors are still applying the pressure as they wait for their brand new building.
Sylvia Stites, director of the senior center, said that when she joined the program four years ago there were only about six or seven people. As new attractions have been added, such as field trips in and out of state and new games, the number of participants has grown, too.
"We started this thing about four years ago and we've started to outgrow this space," she said. "We've had so many people at times here that we've run out of chairs for them to sit in."
The city rents the current location, complete with a small office that's used primarily as a storage closet and a bathroom, from the housing authority. An empty building on South Second Street has been chosen as the location of a new senior center, but actual work has not yet started.
Janice Graff, a volunteer and participant at the senior center, addressed Mayor Tim Shannon at the last commission meeting and to ask about the status of the project.
An architect is working on plans, he said, but that's as much as he knows.
Graff said she's optimistic that the thing will get done sometime next year, despite the lack of a timetable from the city. She began volunteering at the senior center more than two years after her husband died, and said she doesn't know what she would do if she did not have the senior center to turn to.
"Once they get started, I'll be happy," Graff said. "That's it, just the idea of them getting started."
Stites said the city's engineering department has indicated it will have a timetable for them sometime next week, although it hasn't been promised. Currently, an architect is developing plans for renovations and additions to the building that will be used as the new senior center.
The building, once used as a neighborhood meeting place, will be completely renovated with a new commercial-style kitchen, fitness area and outdoor deck.
These are additions to a plan that was put on hold more than a year ago as other funding sources were sought.
"I guess they're working as well as they can with what they have," Stites said. "I don't want to upset anybody, but there are a couple of people here that are getting tired of waiting."
Shannon has publicly supported the senior center project over the past couple of years. But right now, he said, the seniors will just have to wait.
The senior center operates four days a week, Monday through Thursday. Each Tuesday the group takes a field trip, while the other days are spent mostly at the senior center. The seniors talk, play cards, participate in group activities and, their new favorite thing, play Nintendo Wii bowling.
On Wednesday, the room wasn't too crowded, but some days, Stites said, seniors are waiting at the door trying to get in.
"The longer we go," she said. "The more people that keep coming in. We get more and more crowded each day. We could do a lot more if only we had more room to do it in."
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