COVINGTON — The years of lobbying, campaigning and waiting for an expanded Senior Services Center marked a milestone Friday with the groundbreaking for an addition to the Josephine B. Brown Senior Center at Turner Lake Park.

Newton County Commission Chairman Marcello Banes welcomed a crowd of seniors and others to the ceremony.

“All of those nights you guys came to the commissioners’ meetings … it is finally paying off,” said Banes. “We are excited about the commissioners that supported this, our county manager for pushing it through and your determination for not stopping and for making this happen.”

Friday’s ceremonial groundbreaking signals the beginning of construction for center expansion, which will be funded by 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars. The expansion is budgeted at $1.8 million.

Freda Reed, executive director of the Senior Center, said the expansion has been a long-time dream for her and former director Josephine Brown, for whom the center is named.

“It’s been a long time coming, but it is finally here,” said Reed.

Reed said Senior Services has seen a lot of changes over the years, at times meeting in a park, at the YMCA on Newton Drive or at the Covington Housing Authority. And throughout those years, the program has been growing, she said.

“Finally, in 1999 they moved here, and behold, we thought we had enough room,” said Reed. “Six months later we were crowded, we were overcrowded.”

Reed thanked seniors and supporters of the program for remaining steadfast in their pursuit of an expanded facility.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done, thank you for your prayers, thank you for your dreams, thank you for your hopes,” she said. “But the journeying is not finished; we’ve got a lot to do because, guess what? In the next three or four years … we will have outgrown this building.”

Reed also thanked county commissioners “for recognizing the fact that we matter.”

“For a little while there, I didn’t think you thought we mattered, that we were just a statistical number on the census,” she said. “But we are strong; we want things; we need things; we are a vibrant contribution to this community. We vote; we do anything you ask us to do, because, guess what? We’ve got time to do that. Our time is now!”

Brown, who retired as Senior Services director in 2016 after 45 years, said that working with senior citizens was “the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

“You helped me grow up, and the best part about it, you helped me raise my two children to be successful young ladies who have successful husbands and brilliant children,” she said. “You all did that because you poured into me your wisdom.”

Brown thanked Reed and Assistant Director Teresa Williams for embracing her vision.

“There were times I thought nobody cared about us, but we have to wait on the Lord, and He will take care of us in due time. And that’s what He’s done,” she said.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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