Over 80 people were on hand for the recent ribbon-cutting of the new Senior Center in St. Gabriel, many of whom are the very people who will use it the most.

The town’s Senior Center formally took up what had been two classrooms of the old school, which was long ago converted to City Hall but demand created the need for a larger space, Mayor Lionel Johnson Jr. said.

“Our previous center had been here in the administration,” he continued. “The project was started by my predecessor and we have continued it. We have strengthened it by working with the Iberville Parish Council and with the support of the parish Council on Aging’s Charlotte Sipling.”

“We cater to all the elderly citizens on the east side, in the incorporated and the unincorporated areas,” Johnson said.

The new Senior Center is located in what had been the school’s cafeteria, with a portion divided for a dining room for the senior citizens and it still uses the same kitchen as the school did, although with almost all new equipment.

“It’s all new just about,” said the Rev. Alfred Thomas, pastor of the Mt. Bethel Baptist Church. “We’ve got new lights, new acoustic tiles on the ceiling, a new commercial sink and most of the appliances have either been replaced or refurbished.

“We average about 27 people a day but some days we might have 30 or more,” said Thomas, who is also the community services coordinator for the city. Under that title, he is responsible for the operation of the food pantry, the senior center and the cafeteria.

He aid the center hosts arts and crafts activities on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and a variety of other activities like sewing, Tai Chi and others will begin soon, now that the center is larger.

“We want to increase the participation at the Senior Center,” Thomas said, continuing by saying he would like to see the activity center filled to capacity, 48. “Many of the people who were at the ribbon-cutting expressed to us they’re going to come they just don’t know when.”

“I credit the leadership of Pastor Thomas for the success of our center,” Johnson said. “When we started, we might have seven to 10 people on any given day on a consistent basis, but since then we’ve grown to maybe 30 or so consistently coming.”

The new Senior Center is 2,600 square feet, “large enough to give our seniors a new open area where they can come together and do arts and crafts, sewing, painting, just relax and watch Tv, hold Bible study classes,” he continued.

“It’s a place for our citizens to come and get away from home for a while,” Johnson said. “It gives them something to do.”

“We’ve seen steady growth and I’m exciting about where it might go now,” he continued. “We’re excited about it. It’s one of the major accomplishments for my people that they can get a direct benefit from.”

Johnson said the center was completed last fall at a cost of $662,000, monies that came from a bond issue dedicated to infrastructure.

The food pantry affiliated with the Senior Center serves 133 families and distributes food boxes every third Wednesday of the month, Thomas said. “There are requirements for eligibility to be included in the distribution based on income and the number of occupants of the household.”