A groundbreaking ceremony was held at 1 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon along Plum Street at the future site of the Bennetts Valley Senior Center.
According to Kevin Wolfel, the general contractor on the project, work on the new facility is expected to begin next week and construction of the 3,300-square-foot facility is expected to take between five and six and a half months. Wolfel has been working as a consultant on the project for the past three years and noted that he is contracted for a seven-month period, though he did not anticipate construction taking that long.
Dolores Youngmark, president of the Bennetts Valley Senior Center, acted as mistress of ceremonies for the occasion. She began by reciting a well-known quotation from Abraham Lincoln: "Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way."
She noted that these words have been her motto since 2007, when it was first suggested by Matt Quesenberry, director of the Elk County Planning Commission, that a new center be constructed.
In the four years since that time, Youngmark and a number of other individuals have worked hard to make that goal a reality.
"The best part of it is we're going to be debt-free when it is done," Youngmark said. "That's even better. We don't want any incumbencies on the members of Bennetts Valley for years to come."
Youngmark expressed her appreciation to a number of individuals who have been instrumental in helping the project move forward. One of those was Fr. Tom Tyler, who gave the invocation at the afternoon event.
"Fr. Tom was instrumental in getting us this beautiful piece of ground, almost eight acres of level ground, which is suitable for walking, fishing and just plain old visiting," Youngmark said.
She added that the site also has a historical significance and was once used as a park.
Youngmark also commented on the challenges the group faced in securing the funds for the construction of the center.
"It has been through the dogged efforts of the people in Ridgway, the Elk County Planning Commission, and Tracy Gerber, who has spearheaded the project and has been instrumental in getting us the bulk of the money needed," Youngmark said.
She added that Elk County Commissioners June Sorg, Dan Freeburg and Ron Beimel also played a significant role in helping to secure the necessary funding. According to Youngmark, some of the other groups or individuals who played a role were the Office of Human Services, the Stackpole Hall Foundation, the Elk County Community Foundation, former state Representative Dan Surra and state Senator Joe Scarnati.