Center’s birth was a long labor of love
The birthing process of a new home for the Webster Parish Council on Aging has taken seven long years of labor.
But to COA Executive Director Dathene Brown, it has been a labor of love.
"We are all excited here," Brown said. "We just can't believe we have gotten to this point, and if I died tonight, I'd die happy."
The blessed event officially kicks off at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21 with ground-breaking ceremonies on Sheppard Street.
"The Lord has just blessed us unbelievably," she continued. "For us to have the match money to do this, we had to come up with $273,510."
That portion, she said, was raised over the years through fund-raisers and Certificate of Deposit earnings.
It was up to the state to come up with the rest.
Brown, with the help of Fred Evans and others, has applied for Capital Outlay funding every year since the fall 2006.
"Every year, we followed up with another application," Brown said.
The property was purchased from MBL Bank in 2007.
"I called David Evans to ask what they wanted for the property," Brown said. "MBL Bank sold us that property – 2.8 acres – for $125,000. We paid cash for that."
Plans for the 11,000-plus square foot, $1.85 million project were drawn by Minden native and architect Perry Watson.
In 2010, funding approval made it through the Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, along with other projects for Webster Parish.
"I found out later that Sen. (Robert) Adley went to the governor and sat down with him and said, 'Governor, you and I can have our differences, but don't take it out on the people of this state.' And, when it came up the next year, he didn't veto it.
"In 2012, it was put on the bonding commission, and they sold the bonds," she continued.
Brown said Adley was a huge help, but perhaps the COA's strongest advocate is former state Rep. Jean Doerge.
"She stayed after them down there (in Baton Rouge)," Brown said. "She did a lot of good for Webster Parish."
Thursday's groundbreaking will be symbolic, as work has already begun on the property. According to the contract, the builder has 330 days to complete the project.
"We've already let the contract," said Brown. "ELA (Edward L. Angel) of Shreveport got the contract and are already out there working."
By the end of November, senior citizens will be enjoying the many new services.
Between 75 to 100 seniors pass through the doors of the current center every day. The location, on McIntyre Street, in a low-lying area near Minden High School, has been the home for the Council on Aging since 1979.
Years of flooding have caused rotting and have, on occasion, temporarily shut down some of the COA's most important services, such as Meals on Wheels.
"More goes on here than most people realize," Brown said. "We aren't just Bingo and eating. We help with Medicaid and Medicare applications, we help some of our citizens get help with their medications – food stamps, commodities and Food Bank distribution."
In the new building, there will be a place to do those things that will allow privacy.
In addition, Brown said there will be a quilting room and exercise room with a personal trainer on staff.
Having used all of COA's money for the new building, Brown said they are "pretty broke, but we're not in the business of making money. We're in the business of helping people.