Decorah Senior Center forges on for updated facility

By Kate Klimesh,

Work started at the Decorah Senior Center recently.

The older we get, the more likely we need a bit of rehabilitation to keep us in tip-top shape. The same is being done for a much-loved building in Decorah – the Senior Hospitality Center.

The leadership group of the Decorah Senior Citizens Hospitality Center is forging ahead with rehabilitation and modernization plans to ensure the center can continue to meet the needs of seniors for years to come. 

After careful assessment of the site and fundraising efforts spanning the past year, the project has taken roots with work starting last week on construction of the ADA-compliant restrooms at the center. Work will continue over the next month and is possible due to the $67,000 that had been raised – a portion of the total fundraising goal of $300,000 to not only bring the facility up to code for those with disabilities, but also make it an enjoyable and engaging community space for area seniors. 

Fifty thousand dollars of the total goal has been dedicated to the complete rehabilitation and reconstruction of the facility’s restrooms. Both restrooms will be gutted, and demolition started last week. The center will be closed during construction. New stalls and restroom access doors will be installed to ensure the facility is compliant and accessible for people, whether they are in a wheelchair, or any other assistive mobility device.

The front entrance will also be shown some much-needed love, with updated guard rails on the handicap-accessible ramp, and a wider exit door for accessibility to meet code compliance. Both of these upgrades are part of the $17,000 general repairs phase of the project to be completed at the same time.

For all other phases, funds are currently being accepted to help address rehabilitation of the kitchen, roof, windows, ceilings and new flooring. The center will reopen once construction for this phase is complete. There are plans for a few day trips, however, possibly even to Cedar Falls. Follow their Facebook page for details and dates. 

The building itself, purchased for the senior center in 1977 and renovated at that time, was originally the DECO factory before they moved into their larger space. Over the years it has served the senior community well with a wide range of activities, including being the location for the senior meal site for many years and being an active hub of for events and get-togethers, including offering community rentals for special events.

The facility is a home away from home for people from Winneshiek County, as well as folks from Minnesota, Fayette County and as far away as Riceville. 

Senior Center Volunteer and Coordinator Gerry Sorenson noted on Facebook, “How long will we be closed??? Not sure, construction doesn’t always work out like we plan. We hope to keep everyone informed about activities, places and times. We still want to have as many of our activities as we can. We are making progress and are moving forward.”

But no one is taking this as a time to rest, “While we are shut down, our fundraising for the next phase will start refreshed. Any ideas, volunteers and leadership are appreciated. We are trying our hardest, but we haven’t really been trained for this line of work. We have the desire to turn our Center into the fresh and safe place we like to gather with our families and friends.”

The Senior Center has received great community support from donors as well as local services donating their time and energy with the rehabilitation project. It’s good to be able to give back to the center that has partnered with so many local groups and businesses over the years. Once construction is complete, they have paint through the Paint Iowa Beautiful grant to finish the restrooms. 

To spearhead the next phase of rehabilitation, the center leadership held a quilt raffle, a garage sale and accepted community donations as they took bids to have the commercial appliances removed from the center’s kitchen area for future replacement. To date, they are currently seeking an additional $230,000 to fully fund the next phase of rehab and get the Senior Hospitality Center back to optimal performance.  

For more information on the project, plans or to donate, contact 563-277-1033, email, or use that email for payments via PayPal or Zelle, or mail a check to Senior Citizens Hospitality Center, 806 River St., Decorah IA 52101.

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