BELPRE - The Belpre Senior Center had a busy night Thursday as organizers hosted more than 200 people to the Make Room for More dinner and fundraiser at St. Ambrose Catholic Church.
"I am amazed to see so many people support the senior center," said city safety-service director Dave Ferguson.
Susie Casto, center director, said she was pleased with the turnout.
"It's wonderful," she said. "What we are seeing is a lot of people who use the center and can't wait to use the new expansion."
The expected $5,000 raised from the Italian dinner will go to finish the interior of the facility's 1,500-square-feet expansion now being built into the back of Howes Grove Park.
The $129,300 cost of the expansion will be paid for with funds from the city, the Washington County Senior Levy, the Belpre Community Foundation and the Marietta Community Foundation. These funds only cover the cost of building the structure, not completing or furnishing the interior, which is why this dinner was so important, Casto said.
Since the city partnered with the O'Neill Center in Marietta in the fall of 2008, usership has almost doubled and the expansion will allow them to do activities, such as chair volleyball and others, that the members have not been able to do as efficiently, Casto said.
"The turnout and willingness of the community to come out is just amazing," said Yvette Young-Epling with Marietta Home Nursing and Hospice. "We now have a new generation of seniors who want to get out and do more things and we need to help them do that."
According to state data, nearly 28 percent of the population of the City of Belpre is older than 60 years old, which is larger than that of Washington County at 24.3 percent and the state at 19.9 percent.
"We are doing a really good job with the seniors we have, but we have got to find ways to attract younger seniors," Casto said. "Having this center and activities protects seniors from isolation and depression and it becomes a hub they turn to."
The dinner included entertainment from the River City Treblemakers and the "Funny, Puny Fashion Show."
The fashion show was a pun on words with a cotton dress being covered in cotton balls, a pair of Capri pants with Capri Sun juice packets and a print dress with a skirt made of newsprint.
"The O'Neill Center has had a couple of these fashion shows and they are always a huge hit," Casto said. "Because the fashions are a pun on words, the show encourages seniors to find humor in everything in their lives."
This was the first of several planned fundraisers to help the center with the expansion.
In December there is a Snow Ball dinner event planned to be held at the center.
"If we end up selling 200 tickets, we might have to move it," Casto joked.