Emma Aguirra-Lawson remembers going to the former senior center on Court Street with her grandparent.
“That’s Fallon,” she said of the center being open to everybody. “We’re a big community, and we try to help everybody … and that’s really important.”
Aguirra-Lawson’s grandmother was also part of the Soroptimist International of Fallon, the organization that started the center in 1977.
The William N. Pennington Life Center dedication ceremony took place Tuesday, officially unveiling the new 16,000-square foot, $5 million senior center with many thanks, a ribbon cutting, tours, and a special lunch also shared by Meals on Wheels program participants in their homes.
The dining room was filled wall-to-wall with some standing.
The state-of-the-art facility offers a place for seniors to enjoy dining services, socialization, recreation and art opportunities, salon and medical services as well as numerous other resources. The center is also located downtown, neighboring the county’s museum, and Maine Street is lined with local businesses, restaurants and a movie theater — all within walking distance of the new space.
The building also includes a commercial kitchen where over 100 meals per day (a growing number the center reported) will be served to seniors in the dining room, while another 190 will be prepared and delivered to local homebound seniors through Meals on Wheels — which has been delivering meals to local seniors since 1974.
“If it wasn’t for Meals on Wheels, we’d have a lot of hungry people out there,” said Lisa Erquiaga, senior center executive director, adding sometimes that driver is the only person those seniors see all day and that it’s their “well check.”
County representatives including Manager Eleanor Lockwood and Comptroller Alan Kalt as well as Commissioners Bus Scharmann and Carl Erquiaga were present. Also Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford and Capt. David Halloran, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Fallon, were in attendance as well as Pennington Foundation representatives Richard Stoltz and Racquel Bridgewater, who were at the groundbreaking last year.
Scharmann shared that the project was made possible through a huge team effort by the Pennington Foundation, Churchill County, city of Fallon, the Coalition for Senior Citizens and its subcommittees, Ferguson Construction and architect Frank Woodliff III, county building official Cliff Van Woert as well as many other individuals, groups and funding or coordinating organizations.
Scharmann added that the center is more than a senior citizen center but a multi-purpose building. The Marine Corps League also presented the colors and two Churchill County High School honor choir students, Jenna and Hanna Stewart, sang the National Anthem. Plaques were then presented to many attending.
The building crew noted that 50 percent of the project’s subcontractors were local, which was met with hearty applause, and that the fantastic communication between the entities was key.
Kalt shared the story of how the idea came to fruition, from the golf course to the Pennington Foundation to the local effort.
Senator Dean Heller’s office sent representatives and certificates as well as his congratulations.
Erquiaga and others expressed their heartfelt thanks to former senior center director Jamie Lee. Erquiaga also thanked the many vendors, volunteers and community partners involved in the project.
“As you can all see, this is a thank you moment,” Scharmann said warmly of the one-time chance and specialness of dedicating the center to the community.
Erquiaga also shared her vision of an intergenerational program, a way to continue to bridge the gap between older and younger generations and learn from each other.
“That is where I want to take all of you,” she said. “And I hope you’ll join me.”
William N. Pennington’s foundation (Pennington passed away in 2011) provides grants to Nevada-based organizations in education, community services, healthcare and medical research.
“William N. Pennington will always be remembered as a successful entrepreneur who was one of Nevada’s leading philanthropists and gaming pioneers,” Erquiaga said in the center’s May newsletter. “We will never be able to thank the foundation enough for this great building. Our community will be forever grateful.”
Erquiaga added she looks forward to getting back to normal, “if there is a normal,” she said smiling.