Oak Lawn eyes space for senior center

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said that preliminary plans are moving forward to lease space for a new senior center in underutilized space at Park Lawn.

“They have additional space that they no longer need,” said Bury. “Everyone is pretty excited about this.”

The mayor said the idea of signing a long term lease with Park Lawn, 10833 S. Laporte, Oak Lawn, has been talked about for over two years. Park Lawn provides instruction and opportunities to promote independence, choice and access to community living for people with developmental and physical disabilities.

But it was not until recently that plans to renovate sections of the Park Lawn facility for seniors began to take shape. Less classroom space is being utilized for participants, many of whom are receiving vocational training and other locations and at businesses.

The Reporter went on a brief tour Friday of the presently underutilized section of the building, which is at the north end. A large room near a parking lot is available for senior programs such as crafts. A kitchen would be available on certain days for the proposed senior center. An activity room can be made available for exercise programs for seniors, according to Jon Perry, vice president of the Park Lawn Board of Directors.

While Bury cautions this is the preliminary stage of discussion, she pointed to Oak Lawn’s association with Park Lawn. With kitchen space, meals can be provided once a month. Work needs to be done on the structure, but Bury sees the potential.

“I know a lot of people have brought up they want a new senior center built,” said Bury. “But that can be quite expensive. But why do that when you already have this structure here. I think the seniors understand that. We want to do what’s right for them and the taxpayers.”

Bury sees the advantages of having the senior center at Park Lawn. The needs of Park Lawn participants and some seniors are similar. Those needs can be taken care of in a facility like this, according to Bury.

The proposed move to the Park Lawn location is being done to respond to many seniors who had grievances about the current site at 5220 W. 105th St., the old McGugan Junior High School location. Seniors complained about not having enough rooms for some of their programs. Aerobics instructors were concerned about a lack of space as well.

The move to the old McGugan site was necessitated because the old Oak Lawn Senior Center building at 5330 W. 95th St. was sold to Beverly Bank and Trust and was renovated into the Oak Lawn Trust and Savings Bank. The senior center at the old McGugan location opened in June, 2013.

“The seniors want to have a safe place,” said Bury. “Four years ago we looked into (Park Lawn). “

Bury said it was through the efforts of Trustee William “Bud” Stalker that discussions with Park Lawn “reenergized.”

While sufficient room appeared to be available in the parking lot, Stalker pointed out that the most mornings the lot is filled with buses for Park Lawn participants.

“This is definitely an issue,” said Stalker. “But it’s not insurmountable.”

Perry said other arrangements could probably be made for the buses on specific days.

Bury said more discussions will take place to make this a facility that seniors will want to come to and take part in various programs.