It’s often been said that everything comes down to politics, and when you want something done, it’s not what you know, it’s whom you know. That’s why it’s good to know people with influence, people who have the power to run with an issue and achieve the objectives connected to it.
It might be the need for a traffic light at an intersection used by children on their way to school. There might be a paucity of parks or playgrounds in a growing, family-oriented town. Or, it might be an obvious lack of recreation facilities to accommodate a growing senior citizen population.
With life expectancies on the rise and the centenarian population about to boom, some municipalities across the country are beginning to show a little extra respect for their elders.
“Many seniors, including those still working and those retired, wanted a place to get together and share common interests,” said Denis Toth, former president of Seniors in Motion (SIM), and currently an active member. Mr. Toth and several other seniors, including Shirley Voiren, for whom the current SIM center, next to Flower Mound Town Hall is named, have worked diligently for several years to grow the organization and have their own facility. Nevertheless, past elected officials haven’t always been receptive to the idea.
However, in 2004, when Jody Smith was elected Town of Flower Mound mayor, she became a champion of the seniors’ cause. Mayor Smith held a meeting at her home and began to plant the idea of a formal seniors group with a place they could call their own. Other council members got on board and the process began.
About a year later, SIM was organized as part of the parks department with only a few dozen members meeting regularly at the Flower Mound Community Church at 3415 Cross Timbers Road. As more seniors became aware of the friendly gatherings, the group moved into a room at the newly-built Community Activity Center at 1200 Gerault Road.
Continuing to grow, they soon moved to the stand alone building next to Town Hall, where they’ve been for the past couple of years. Recently, with the new 22,000-square-foot SIM center nearing completion, I had the pleasure of a meeting with Denis Toth, Phyllis Lantvit, current president of the SIM Advisory Board, and Jaime Jaco-Cooper, senior supervisor and manager for SIM. Jaime works for the town’s parks and recreation, under Gary Sims, who is the executive director.
A good portion of the conversation was about their gratitude for having a town council that gave them the opportunity to enjoy what will be a splendid addition to our town and a comfortable, safe place for seniors to gather. “I can’t say enough about this council, especially Jean Levenick, who was a major inspiration for this facility,” Toth said, adding, “At one point, Jean said ‘Enough, we’ve been putting this off for too long!’” Ms. Lantvit and Ms. Jaco-Cooper agreed, citing the leadership also provided by Mayor Tom Hayden, and Councilmen Steve Dixon, Mark Wise, Bryan Webb and Michael Walker. “Jimmie Stathatos (town manager) was also right there to help usher this facility into fruition,” added Jaime. The excitement in their eyes was palpable as they eagerly anticipated the opening.
The new center at the southwest corner of Long Prairie Road and West Windsor Drive is expected to have an open house on Thursday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The current facility is 4,000 square feet and their membership is 938. With an additional 18,000 square feet, they anticipate a surge in new membership as the residents, 50 years and over, cast their peepers on the huge list of amenities and programs that will be available. Compared to the current center, which basically offers one large room, the new facility will have several rooms to accommodate a host of interesting activities.
For example, members will have a fitness center, computer room, areas for cards and games, outside patio areas for Bocci ball, pool tables, ping pong tables, a library, etc. The annual fee for Flower Mound residents is a mere $10, while non-residents can avail themselves of all the same advantages for only $20. The large main room in the new center will be named the Shirley Voiren Ballroom, while the entire complex will be called the Flower Mound Senior Center. The advisory board operates under a set of bi-laws, but any concerns that are not covered will be passed on to Jaime for review.
Presently their center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. But, Jaime said, “When they move to the new center, they will also be open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. to accommodate more seniors that are actively working, with programs like planning and seminars for seniors that are caregivers for their parents. In addition, the fitness activities will also be attractive to those who work out in the evenings. Hence, when they do retire, they’ll be familiar with the facility and can avail themselves of it.”
In 2009, Mary Kay Walker, president of SIM Auxiliary, started a 501c3 to provide a funding program for much of the supplies for the center. She organizes activities with places like Fish City, in which the management will, on a given day, donate 15 percent of the receipts to SIM. There is so much more to like about SIM, and you can find it here.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.