Seniors Center struggles with breaks and panes

By Reggie Ellis

The last major repairs to the Exeter Senior Center were done three years ago. Ninety-one year-old Fred Smith remembers it well because that's when an electrician fell through the ceiling trying to fix faulty wiring above.

Smith and Board President Jacob Epperson approached the Exeter City Council on Sept. 26 to ask that the city help fund the major repairs needed to bring the building up to date. Epperson gave a tour of the building to councilmembers several days later pointing out broken windows, cracks in the exterior plaster, holes in the ceiling, rotting wood along the baseboards and unsafe stairwells.

&#8220There are things around here that are kind of turkey-lurkey,” Epperson said. A few years ago when the center's only water fountain broke, the city pulled it out of the wall and put a book shelf in its place. &#8220This is the city's building and we are just tenants here, but I'd like to see a better quality of life for our seniors.”

&#8220You pointed out stuff I have noticed in the eight years I've been coming here,” Smith said.

Loveda Palmer has been volunteering at the Senior Center for over 10 years. She said there are no magnets to keep the cabinet doors closed and there are not enough outlets to keep a coffee pot, microwave and radio running at the same time.

In all, Epperson estimated that between $25,000-$50,000 in repairs will be needed. The City Council was scheduled to decide on whether or not to pay for major repairs to the old building last night's meeting after press time. In addition to major repairs, Epperson suggested using the $2,000 the city spends insuring the Senior Center van, could be used to make repairs to the building. He said seniors could Dial-A-Ride, a free intra-city bus service, to get to and from the center.

Epperson said the Senior Center Board is also looking at three grants for funding to repair the building, which is a senior citizen itself. Dedicated to the city of Exeter as a library in 1916, Exeter's Carnegie building was one of 1,681 public libraries bestowed upon 1,412 cities by philanthropist and millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation between 1889 and 1923, according to When the Senior Center was established more than 20 years ago, the city allowed them to hold their lunches, meetings and fund-raisers at the Carnegie Building, located at the corner of Pine and E streets at City Park. A nutritious lunch was provided by the Kings-Tulare Area Agency on Aging (KTAAA) Monday through Friday, but cut back to Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday two years ago. Recently, Starbucks began dropping off its unsold baked goods and coffee for the Senior Center.

Seniors such as Smith enjoy coming for lunch, listening to music or playing games with fellow senior citizens. It was here that Smith met his wife, Eola Epperson-Smith, who he married in 2001.

&#8220A lot of people enjoy spending time with other seniors here,” Smith said. &#8220It would be nice if it was just more comfortable.”

Epperson said Exeter residents could also help out by donating American and state flags, ceiling fans an oven or new TV. To make donations to the Exeter Senior Center, call Jacob Epperson at 909-0605.

&#8220There are a lot of seniors going to the Senior Centers in Visalia and Tulare,” Epperson said. &#8220With some modernization, I think more seniors would be inclined to come here too.”

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