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New center serves south side seniors
Senior WEB 1
Mary Bollati considers signing up for an art class at the Sexton Hall Enrichment Center, which opened Friday. - photo by Alyssa LaRenzie

The fastest growing segment of Forsyth County’s population crowded the new gathering spot for a first glimpse Friday morning.

The county senior services department unveiled its third center, the Sexton Hall Enrichment Center, with an opening ceremony and tour.

Shelley Johnson, senior services director, welcomed the large crowd of residents getting their first look at the facility on Chloe Road near Sharon Springs Park in south Forsyth.

“Our goal in creating this … is to help build a sense of community and a place for you all to build friendships,” Johnson said.

The county’s current facilities — the Center at Charles Place and the Hearthstone Lodge Community Center — are in the central and northern parts of the county, respectively.

Sexton Hall is the first on the south end, which Brian Tam noted has had a “strong need” for this center for quite some time.

“I am pleased that we are now able to fill that need,” said Tam, chairman of the county commission. “I know it will be an outstanding amenity for our county’s active adults.”

The county remodeled the former Lakeland Community Church to house the center, paying for the project with 1-cent sales tax revenue.

Several activities and classes will be offered at the 13,000-square-foot facility, with a focus on dancing, the arts and other growth opportunities.

To get people excited about the offerings Friday, instructors gave demonstrations and greeted guests in the new classrooms.

Ed Perez will teach lessons on computers, including how to use several programs and social networking Web sites.

He’s taught for senior services in Forsyth before, and said the classes usually get a big response.

The Sexton Hall computer lab, complete with laptops, is much larger and more well-equipped than at other centers, Perez said.

In the game room, Mary Ellen Morrow signed up to join the mahjong game group.

“I’m so excited,” Morrow said. “We’ve needed [this space] for so long.”

During the opening tour, visitors also gathered in the great room to watch and participate in demonstrations of tai chi and zumba.

The sample classes took place atop the wooden dance floor that many senior services participants are looking forward to stepping on during upcoming social dances.

Paige Oudekerk, a volunteer, said the activities offered by senior services have been quite popular.

The growing population of seniors often relocates to Forsyth County to follow their families, she said.

“I think [this center] is going to be a great way for people to meet each other,” Oudekerk said.

The spot could become like a new home for some. For Dorothy Sexton Bagwell, however, that term takes on a different meaning.

Bagwell grew up on the property, which the Sexton family bought in 1937 as farmland.

Looking out the windows of the hall, Bagwell said she thought of growing butterbeans and corn.

She’s participated in several senior services activities, she said, and looks forward to visiting the new center that bears her family name.

“It’s like coming back home to come here,” Bagwell said.