Seniors need roof over their heads

Published 2:25 am Monday, January 17, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
Since hurricane Ivan many seniors are left with no place to go.
Senior Adult Independent Living (SAIL) has used the 1949-built National Guard Armory as a place for seniors to congregate and eat for almost as long as the 32-year-old organization has been in operation.
"The SAIL center does Meals On Wheels and the transportation group that Escambia County Assisted Transportation provides," said SAIL coordinator Charlotte Purvis, .
according to Purvis Over 100 meals are prepared each day by the volunteers and employees of SAIL.
SAIL was given a grant to build a new center to replace the dilapidated armory building but Hurricane Ivan set the group's plans back, said Al Killam, a local senior.
"Ivan struck the day we were supposed to start the project," Purvis said. "The roof was torn off our old building; we haven't been able to use the armory until recently and seniors still can't use the meeting hall," Purvis said.
SAIL borrowed a small house near Oak Hill Cemetery as a temporary place to hold meetings and prepare meals.
"It was so small we could hardly turn around and the seniors still did not have a meeting place," SAIL Volunteer Nancy Parker said. "We were so happy to get back into the armory."
Tarps were spread over missing portions of the old armory roof, but recently many of them have blown off and sections of the building have water damage. Some parts of the building also have mold problems and meals can not be eaten in the building, Parker said.
Mayor Howard Shell has had the kitchen inspected so that meals for senior citizens who can not cook for themselves may be prepared in the armory until better accommodations can be built.
"The mayor has been really nice in letting us come back here, Purvis said. "He is doing his best to get us up and running."
"Many seniors came to the center just to play dominoes, cards or to just congregate in fellowship," said Purvis. "One lady refers to the center as her school and can't wait until school is reopened," Parker added.
Many have worried that they may run out of time before the grant can be used. "The way we understand it if we don't use the grant we lose it," Purvis said.
"We have gotten an extension on the grant but until we have dealt with other Hurricane-related problems we will have to wait," Shell said. "We will get back on it as soon as possible," he added.
SAIL center employees are employed through the city, making many decisions regarding the center the responsibility of the mayor and council. A time frame for the project has not been set at this time, however Mayor Shell hopes to begin the project before summer.

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