Planned Expansion Reflects Mission Update
Even without the ability to serve its members through this pandemic year, The Adult Center of Prescott has been buzzing with activity. Paint, floors and ceilings, equipment maintenance and upgrades, furnishings, a completely new catering kitchen, and many detailed improvements have kept the staff working hard toward reopening.
“We were supposed to be closed for two weeks. Then it was a couple of months. Now it’s a year. We need to get back open!” says Executive Director Lucy Mason, who started the job just as the pandemic was changing everything.
With nothing to offer members until official restrictions lifted, she and the organization saw a rare opportunity to restore and refresh the facility. But she really gets excited when she opens the back door and looks out at the nearly 20 acres of empty fields to the east. She’s got a plan.
The nonprofit mainly serves members aged 50 and up. “This generation of members is by far the most vital aging generation that I’ve ever seen; they want to continue to be that, and we want to be able to provide those opportunities.” The practical limitations of indoor spaces during the pandemic led her to the idea of an outdoor space that can host all sorts of events and activities. After negotiating with the City over use of the land and other infrastructure, she has a green light to go forward.
The plan is for a large concrete-floored, metal-roofed structure with open sides and pull-down windbreaks, a movable stage and dance floor, as well as associated service facilities to hold equipment, tables and chairs to seat as many as 500 people. Lucy’s calling it the Active Life Center.
“Watching how we’ve changed over the years and how more and more we’ve become a retirement community, and seeing the needs of people who have decided to move here, it’s so much more than ‘Here’s a building, now come use it.’ It’s an attitude, it’s a care that we have for our members. What we do is provide services like exercise, mental expansion, and creativity.” With or without concern about a virus, many of today’s seniors prefer to pursue those activities in fresh air.
Social connections of all sorts have been severed or impaired over the past year, particularly for older adults. “We’ve got a lot of people here who have adult children all over the country, some of them don’t have their spouses anymore, a lot of lonely, aging people. They all want to be out doing things, and after a solid year of being shut out of the Adult Center, they want to come back.”
“We work hard to accommodate everyone’s wishes and what they would like to see happen here.”
Those memberships are the organization’s primary source of operating cash — it is not City-supported — and without them it’s had to dip into foundation funds for the fixups, supplemented by an SBA loan, and a PPP grant to keep the staff on payroll through the year. Another important income sector is rental events, often booked months in advance, and all those have been refunded.
Construction of the next phase, the Active Life Center pavilion and facilities, will require a successful fundraising campaign that has just kicked off. Mason is applying her skills built through many years in state and local politics, talking with potential large donors to pull together something on the order of a million dollars for the expansion.
She is working to burnish the organization’s image and expand its thinking, to “create a more positive feeling about engaging with the Adult Center again,” not only with a prettier building, but with new programs and that new attitude as well. “Right now my whole thing is changing the reputation of this organization to something that’s positive and fun, social and active, learning how to better take care of ourselves.”
Having served the local community for over 45 years, the Adult Center has been showing its age in more areas than tired carpets. Going forward, members will be more involved in decisions and policies, and member ideas will get higher priority. “We have five pages of ideas for new programs. We’re wide open to ideas,” says Mason. “We work hard to accommodate everyone’s wishes and what they would like to see happen here. There’s a lot of coordination that we do on behalf of the members to make sure they have what they want.”
“What (the pandemic) has taught us is that we need each other. We need to be social, and to engage physical exercise in a safe atmosphere. We need to be able to learn, we need to have those mental gains.”
“It’s really opened us up to what’s possible. What I’m trying to do is make it more about love, more about how we love this community, how we love our aging adults.”
What does Lucy Mason get out of it? “I love this job. It allows me to get out and be in touch with the community that I love. I want people to call me.”
The Adult Center of Prescott is at 1280 E. Rosser St. Suite B, Prescott; for more info call 928-778-3000; adultcenterofprescott.org; annual memberships are $75.