On September 17, Portage city leaders announced Engage. Empower. Enrich. A Campaign for the Portage Community Senior Center, an effort to build a new Portage Community Senior Center at 203 East Centre Avenue at an estimated cost of $11 million.
The new center will replace the existing Portage Senior Center at 320 Library Lane. Kalamazoo County has a senior population of 35,000 and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates that 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age (65) every day. This trend will continue into 2030 and beyond. More than 7,200 seniors reside in Portage.
The new Portage Community Senior Center will feature a multipurpose room with a capacity of 330 people, a courtyard with an outdoor fireplace, an outdoor terrace for warm-weather activities, recreational space for pickleball, basketball and other activities, fitness space, a center promenade for indoor walking, a commercial kitchen, a coffee shop, dedicated space for games and reading, and a health clinic. The new space will be more than four times the size of the current center and will be available for community use.
Over the last year, a group of dedicated community leaders has been working to raise $5.5 million in charitable gifts as part of this unique public/private partnership with the City of Portage. The City of Portage has committed to a dollar for dollar match of donations, up to $5.5 million. Engage. Empower. Enrich. has raised more than $3.5 million over the last year. A total of 109 community donors, local businesses, and area foundations have supported the campaign to date.
At the public announcement of the fund drive, Jim Stephanak and Sarah Baker, the operational chairs of the campaign, invited the public to join in the fundraising effort, which will continue through the end of the year.
“As we work to provide the very best in programs for area seniors, I am pleased to be part of an effort that improves the quality of life for our older adults,” said Stephanak. “Demand for our programs is increasing. Unfortunately, our current senior center is too small and inadequate to address the growing number of seniors who will be seeking our services. We want Portage to be at the forefront of serving a population that has helped to build and sustain our community for many years.”
Baker announced that the campaign has received broad support from local foundations, area businesses, and generous community donors, including a $2 million donation from Charles & Lynn Zhang. “We have been so fortunate to receive gifts to this important campaign,” said Baker. “Our Campaign Cabinet joins me in thanking the community for their meaningful gifts. We now invite the larger community to help us complete this campaign effort. We welcome gifts of all sizes.”
The September 17 announcement marked the beginning of the public phase of the campaign. If the campaign is successful, the construction of the new Portage Community Senior Center would begin in 2020. Donations can be made at e3.portagemi.gov or by using the pledge card to be distributed in the October edition of the city’s monthly newsletter, the Portager. A pledge card can also be obtained at the Portage Senior Center (320 Library Lane).
“This is an exceptional opportunity for the community to demonstrate how much we value our seniors,” said Mayor Patricia Randall. “If we build this new facility, we know that it will become a centerpiece of Portage and a vital community asset that will serve our community for another generation."