LEWISTOWN - Pieces of tile are peeling from bathroom floors and walls, water is seeping through the ceiling and the roof is beyond repair. Though the F.W. Black building has housed the Mifflin-Juniata Area Agency on Aging for nearly 40 years, county officials say relocation is necessary to avoid restoration costs in excess of $1 million.
"(The move) will make us a much more solid organization for the future," said Daniel Lynch, president of the Regional Service Corporation board of directors.
If funds were continually set aside for upkeep and restoration of the deteriorating building, the agency may not exist as it does now 10 to 15 years down the road, he explained. Relocating to a different building where less construction will be needed helps to ensure that services are available to local senior citizens in the future.
Sentinel photo by JULIANNE CAHILL
The Mifflin-Juniata Area Agency on Aging is currently located in the F.W. Black building in Lewistown. By the end of the year, the agency will relocate to the former R and S Surplus Foods building to improve accessibility for their clients.
By the end of the year, the offices, employees and clients at MJAAA will move to the former R and S Surplus Foods building on West Third Street in Lewistown. They will be joined by the local Call-A-Ride service, Mifflin-Juniata Food Service and Adult Daily Living Center.
Kathie Graham, executive director for Regional Services, said she has been with the agency since it began and initially was unsure of whether relocation would be the best option. However, the opportunity to bring local services together at a more visible, accessible location will be more efficient, she said.
The new building is entirely at ground level, a welcome change for clients who find the steep staircase leading to the current building a bit daunting, Lynch said. The one-story design also allows easier access for food service employees who used to make multiple trips in the elevator, transporting supplies to the top floor of the old building. Additionally, food service improvements include a larger kitchen area and neighboring deep freezers and coolers, Graham said.
Staff at MJAAA are also looking forward to advanced security. Graham said security is difficult in the F.W. Black building because of the older construction and numerous entrances. The new location will only include one public entrance, through the front door, which will be supervised at all times, Lynch said.
Even better, the new building is rented, meaning less out-of-pocket maintenance costs for the agency. Since MJAAA is a private, nonprofit corporation, funded primarily through federal and state funding, every dollar counts.
"You do really look at where your money is going," Graham said, adding that significant funds previously went to the upkeep of the grounds and building, snow removal and lawn maintenance.
With the advent of a new building, Lynch and Graham hope MJAAA will be more visible in the community. The planning committee searched high and low in both Mifflin and Juniata counties for a location that would fit the bill. Graham said the former R and S building was just the right size and downtown Lewistown reaches the highest percentage of current clients.
As the agency travels from its calm neighborhood on the south side of Lewistown to the hustle and bustle of Third Street, Graham is confident that more people will realize "there is a place to go to for help." Whether an individual needs assistance preparing meals or traveling to an appointment, the relocation will offer better accommodations for MJAAA clients.
"It's good for this organization because it's good for the people we serve," Graham said.
For more information about the Mifflin-Juniata Area Agency on Aging, visit the agency website at www.mjaaa.com.