The Phoenixville Area Senior Center’s plans to resume indoor activities in the spring with a healthier environment received a big assist this week from Chester County government. The County Commissioners presented the center with a check for $225,000 toward replacing the building’s outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The funding comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.
Air flow and filtration requirements have become more important since the arrival of COVID-19. The senior center’s current HVAC system is nearly 20 years old and cannot be upgraded to meet the operation standards of newer units.
“We are pleased to be able to use these CARES Act dollars to ensure that the air in this facility is as healthy as possible,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz. “One of the most unfortunate side effects of the pandemic has been the closing of in-person programs at senior centers, like the one in Phoenixville. We are all hopeful that the pandemic will reach a point at which seniors who depend on the camaraderie and activities at centers like this one can return here soon.”
Before the pandemic, seniors in the Phoenixville area enjoyed meals together twice a day at the center on the 100 block of Church Street. Since the pandemic, the center has operated a drive-through, serving more than 125,000 meals so far.
“We have continued our mission in some respects, and have been able to meet in limited ways, but we are really looking forward to getting things back to where we can sit and eat with our friends, and hold programs like exercise and art classes again, in the way we used to,” said the center’s executive director, Julie Gaudan. “Once you have that safety factor in place with the new air circulation and filtration, it will make our seniors feel comfortable returning, and hopefully someday we’ll be able to do it face-to-face with no masks.”
With the indoor air up to modern standards, Gaudan said she is optimistic the center can resume in-person programing in the spring as COVID cases abate.
Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell noted that living in isolation during the pandemic has probably affected seniors the most, so being able to gather again will be a lifeline for them. “As we evaluated organizations seeking this federal funding, helping the Phoenixville Senior Center safely reopen rose to the top of our list,” he said. “The activities offered there, in addition to meals, like education, lectures and playing bridge, bring people together and provide a wonderful opportunity for socialization.”
The Phoenixville Area Senior Center has a long history, beginning with its founding in 1978 in space rented within the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. The agency moved to its current building in 1988. The Center has also played an important role in the County’s efforts to control COVID-19, with serving as a location for both testing and vaccines.
“The Phoenixville Area Senior Center welcomes a culturally diverse group of people as it supports and enhances the lives of senior citizens in our county,” said Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “Right now, the center is engaging clients with online exercise classes, coffee hours and lectures. I join my fellow commissioners in looking ahead to seeing all those activities and more taking place again in person. We are proud to support the important work being done here.”
For more information about Phoenixville Senior Center, please visit phoenixvilleseniorcenter.org/