History of the Hub City Senior Center

“Everything begins with an idea.” — Earl Nightengale

BY LORI HAMMELMAN

Rochelle News-Leader - Staff Writer

“Everything begins with an idea.” — Earl Nightengale

That idea came nearly 40 years ago as a quest to find a place for area seniors to go to play cards, watch TV, or socialize following their lunch at the United Methodist Church. The efforts of the founding fathers of the now Hub City Senior Center, through drive and determination, have blossomed into a place where seniors gather to meet people and nurture friendships. Those efforts have also provided a place for many older adults to find the resources they need to maintain their independence, enjoy the countless services and activities, and improve their quality of life.

Above all, the center is like a second home to the area’s senior citizens, providing a stable environment and a place to belong.

Hub City Senior Center executive director Connie Dougherty and her staff warmly welcome seniors and their families. She explains what newcomers to the center can expect.

“From the outside our senior center does not look like much, but once you step inside you feel welcome by the warm and pleasant people that greet you, as well as the general atmosphere,” Dougherty said. “We have something for everyone. We love when new people come to visit us. We proudly show them around, pour them some coffee, get to know them, and find out where they fit in.”

Fit in — they do. Plenty of activities are available including Bingo, Euchre, Pinochle, Bridge, billiards, movie day, and a friendship quilters club just to name a few. The center has become a place to relax and enjoy pleasant conversation. Dougherty said she would extend a larger-than-life thank you to everyone that was involved in bringing the center to the ‘Hub City.’

“I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to thank all the individuals that worked so hard to bring the Hub City Senior Center to Rochelle. I think they would be so proud to see the very active senior center we have become in our community all because they had a dream and they worked tirelessly to make that dream come true,” Dougherty beamed.

 

HISTORY

Several Rochelle News-Leader articles over the years chronicled the history of the center, beginning about four decades ago when Ralph Strang and Harold “Babe” Horton planned to bring a senior center to Rochelle.

At the time, Strang wanted to spend more time with his luncheon companions at Hicks Hall in the UMC. The church had made the hall available to the seniors, but they would just go home after lunch because the church was not a recreation center.

After an initial failed attempt at getting the old Moose Hall purchased through the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Strang and Horton began their campaign for the center. First stop was attending a Rochelle City Council meeting, asking the council to look into purchasing the old Moose Hall and converting it to a senior center.

The gentlemen, standing before the council, referred to the Yellow Bird Senior Citizens Center in Oregon and how they wanted to bring a place similar to Rochelle. “At the church, when they get done eating, they’re done,” Strang had said, quoting the original News-Leader article. “Which only leaves Teen Town, open on Tuesdays for four hours, for recreation.”

Strang told the council that people from Rochelle, Creston, Ashton, and Steward came to Teen Town for the recreation.

A plan was made to get federal funds to buy the hall and remodel the kitchen. Strang also appealed to the seniors to attend the upcoming revenue sharing hearings. He also reached out to the Moose Lodge in an effort of possibly leasing the hall to the seniors and paying rent from donations.

The article mentioned at that time the city had $108,000 in revenue sharing funds, and $308,000 requests. Strang held firm that the seniors might stand a chance if they campaigned.

“I’m 69 myself,” he said. “And it’s not any kind of hardship case. It’s just the idea of companionship, and this can give us a place for it.”

 

VICTORY

In early January of 1980, the city council gave the nod to the supporters of the proposed center. About 25 senior citizens attended a special council meeting to show their support.

The council and Flagg Township Board of Trustees also went on record to support the purchase of the Moose Hall located at Main and Cherry Streets for the asking price of $50,000.

The dream came true when then-Rochelle Moose Governor Frank Danekas turned over the title to the building after receipt of $50,000 from Bill Kramer, Hub City Senior Citizens treasurer.

Both the city of Rochelle and Flagg Township contributed $25,000 each in revenue sharing funds for the purchase. The Frank Kelly Trust Fund, administered by St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, supplied the $5,000 down payment, which was subsequently used to remodel the building. The Regional Board of the Illinois Department of Aging also granted $19,000 for a kitchen, which included tables and chairs for 150 people.

Those present for the closing were Tex Dickenson, Moose board, along with members of the senior citizens advisory committee consisting of Jack Connolly, Ralph Strang, and Babe Horton. Also present was Moose Governor Frank Danekas and Bill Kramer, senior center treasurer.

A target date for occupancy was set, with senior citizen volunteers repairing the building, some as far away as Rockford. Area businesses and service clubs donated materials. The ceiling was completed by members of the Rochelle Fire Department who not only donated their services, but they also raised $800 through fundraising to purchase fireproof ceiling tiles.

The seniors also held fundraising activities such as bake and rummage sales. Caron International roofers assisted with needed repairs. The city of Rochelle sent personnel from the electric department to handle wiring, and the Ogle County Probation Center provided the heavy labor.

 

EXPANSION

Bursting at the seams, the Hub City Senior Center expanded in 1997 to allow for more people and handicap accessibility. Binger’s Pub, located immediately adjacent the center was revamped to give more space and keep the pool tables on the main floor. At the time, seniors played billiards on one of the three tables located in the basement.

During that time, Ken Wise, then-director of GREDCO, had said it would have taken a considerable amount of time to raise funds for the expansion. A $150,000 grant to the center from the State of Illinois allowed not only the $75,000 building purchase, but also an additional $75,000 for construction, appliances, and other items.

Several other volunteers that helped to cut costs included Cap Goken, Willy Brown, Harold Morris, and P.D. Russell who all prepared the pub’s construction.

Rochelle Township High School students assisted on a Saturday tearing out walls and tiles during the Make a Difference Day.

The addition provided 1,400 square feet of space that accommodated the new kitchen, washrooms, and office for visiting doctors.

 

A WEALTH OF SERVICES

Since the expansion, the center has undergone cosmetic remodeling including new hardwood floors. It is a place where seniors get valuable resources, information, education and assistance.

These include caseworkers that assist the seniors in government paperwork or seeking financial assistance. Special speakers are scheduled to discuss topics that are of interest to area seniors.  The center holds several classes offered by the Secretary of State such as the Rules of the Road and the AARP Smart Drivers Course. Seniors can take computer classes.

Nurses come to the center twice a month for blood pressure checks, oxygen levels, and pulse rates. The Ogle County Health Department administers flu vaccinations, a podiatrist provides foot care at least once a month, and a representative from a hearing aid center comes to clean and inspect hearing aids at no cost. Hearing tests are also administered.

Dougherty has worked extensively with Lee-Ogle Transportation Services, along with utilizing the center’s busses to provide transportation for area seniors to the center as well as to local stores for shopping, hair appointments, or to the bank.

“All of our efforts contribute to the well being of our local seniors and families. Long-term care can cost as much as $5,000 a month for the average senior citizen and their family. Our ability to provide services, as well as serve as a resource center, enables all involved to live a happier and more productive life in the homes that they love,” Dougherty said.