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 A knitting class gets underway on the first day of the new center Jan. 15.

A knitting class gets underway on the first day of the new center Jan. 15.

Photo by Deb Jacques

New senior services center opens at Orchard Mall

By: Andy Kozlowski | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 17, 2020

 The location of Connect was formerly a fur business. It underwent extensive renovations.

The location of Connect was formerly a fur business. It underwent extensive renovations.

Photo by Deb Jacques

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Previously spread across the township, West Bloomfield senior programming is now consolidated in one dedicated space at Orchard Mall.

The “one-stop shop” is called Connect, located at 6335A Orchard Lake Road, in what was once a fur business at the northwest corner of the complex. The grand opening was held Jan. 15.

The West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission is paying around $4,000 per month to lease the location for three years — a substantial discount to the regular commercial rate, officials said.

“Orchard Mall has given generously to several of West Bloomfield Parks’ free community events over the years,” Jennifer Tucker, the executive director of the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission, said in an email. “They’ve also supported many of our nonprofit partners in their fundraising efforts to sustain the great work they do in our community.”

Events that Orchard Mall has supported over the years include the Heroes Appreciation Breakfast on Veterans Day, the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance food truck rallies and the Michigan Week Celebration.

Meagan Kurnat, the marketing manager for West Bloomfield Parks, said via email that Connect is a response to feedback from the community.

“As we looked at our senior services and evaluated that approximately 50% of our services are for the 50-years-and-up age group, we formed a Senior Services Advisory Team, made up of local seniors, to find what we were doing well and what we could do better,” Kurnat said. “What we found is that seniors wanted a place to gather in one location. By putting all of our senior services in one place, our goal is to make participating in our programs as convenient as possible, while creating a community hub for our senior population. If this is a successful venture, we will look at one of our own facilities to renovate into a permanent home for our senior services.”

Kelly Hyer, the township’s recreation superintendent, said that Connect features a 2,000-square-foot room for staff to run larger programs. As an example, the center can support up to four pingpong tables with eight players at a time. There are also more drop-in programs being added that don’t require an instructor and that allow for more spontaneous leisure time. With three rooms total, the idea is to accommodate a variety of needs in a cozy setting.

“Being in one space allows for many efficiencies,” Hyer said via email. “Front desk staff are in a position to greet customers as they come in for their classes, as well as process any other class or membership registration. Our instructors now only have one space to work out of, consolidating class supplies to one location as well. Staff no longer has to leave their work space to drive to another location for program setup.”

Renovations cost nearly $150,000 and included the addition of extra bathrooms, flooring and lighting upgrades, and modifications for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tucker said Connect was designed with a variety of interests in mind. Among the drop-in programs are pingpong, card playing, line dancing, and a popular free workout program called Stretch and Tone. There are plans to launch a weekly lunch on Wednesdays, starting Jan. 22, with a new menu each week, provided by The Jagged Fork for a nominal fee. There are also plans for a “Single Mingle” for seniors looking for that special someone. Connect is open to new ideas as well.

“The excitement has been building for this project since we announced its launch in June of last year, even though plans were in the works well before then,” Tucker said.

She said the best part is giving seniors an opportunity to make new friends — hence the name Connect.

“That is the crux of what this whole project is about: creating opportunities for seniors to build relationships with their community and improve overall wellness,” Tucker said.

Added Kurnat: “We’re so excited that the map we have laid out in our strategic plan is coming to life. We’re hopeful that our residents continue to benefit from our efforts to enrich our community. 2020 is a big year, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”