The Legion Building, home of the Wichita Mountains Area Senior Citizens, burned to the ground on February 9, 2019. While decisions are being made about the rebuilding of the Legion Building, finding a permanent home for the Senior Citizens Center, or some unforeseen circumstance, the Senior Center is meeting at the Fellowship Hall of the First Baptist Church of Medicine Park. Serving all senior citizens in the northwest quarter of Comanche County and the surrounding area, the center's growing list of activities <elsewhere> have largely been placed on hold until a permanent home is available. Current activities are listed <HERE>.
This page describes how the center came to the Legion Building.
The Quest for a building. A history:
For many years prior to 2002, the senior citizens of the Wichita Mountains area (Wichita Mountains Estates area, Medicine Park, residential areas of Lakeland and Oak Meadows, and rural residents in the northwest Comanche County area) met and enjoyed our seniors program in a building owned by the City of Lawton on the grounds of the water treatment plant at Medicine Park. In 2002, the building was demolished for the expansion of the water plant. As the time neared for us to vacate the building, the state and ASCOG provided $75,000.00 to the Town of Medicine Park to build a new senior center building. In the interim the center moved temporarily into a borrowed building and reduced our program to meeting two times a week for an evening meal, games, and social activities.
The Town decided, with the senior center leadership's agreement, that they would seek additional grants, combine them with the senior funds, and build a larger building to serve both as Senior Citizens Center and Community Center. Lawton resident Charley Wright, volunteering his time and talent, designed and was general contractor for the new structure. The foundation for the building was poured in the Summer of 2003.
The permission to use the temporary building ended early in 2003 with the new building far from being finished, so the Medicine Park officials made their Town Hall meeting room available to the seniors one night a week. From that time up to June 2009, no senior center program was available except a pot luck supper, a social period, and table games on Monday night at the Town Hall.
During 2003, with the building roofed, sheathed around the outside with composition board and wrapped in building wrap. The seniors were told that the building would soon be available for use, but progress slowed, and the building sat unfinished and unusable. By March, 2004, the inside walls of the building had been plastered, textured, and painted; the molding, lights, and ceiling fans put in place; and the doors to the kitchen hung and the restroom stools and lavatories installed. The seniors thought that, to finish the interior, we only need to clean it thoroughly (the cement floors are encrusted with plaster, paint, insulation, and the dust of construction), procure and install kitchen appliances and work spaces. The town had arranged for the installation of air conditioning and heating and had plans for the installation of sewer and water service.
With the assurance that the structure would soon be finished, the seniors constructed cabinets in the kitchen, but the cabinets were later torn out as "....not compatible with the building plans." Medicine Park obtained other grants in 2006 and again predicted that the building would soon be ready for Senior Citizen Center use, but again the work on the building stalled. The structure, very nearly completed but without exterior siding or air conditioning and heating and without water or sewer service, languished. The exterior wall wrap had long since become brittle and blown away by the Oklahoma winds.
Cotton Electric Company gave the town a grant for an exhaust hood for the kitchen range which was then procured, but not installed. An air conditioner and heater were procured with installation put on hold until the building was closer to being ready for use. The town received an additional grant to finish the building in 2006. That $25 thousand grant provided funds to complete the water service and installation of an aeration septic system. A larger state grant in 2008 made money available to re-wrap the building and install cobble-stone siding, finish other construction, and provide a major part of the equipment and furnishings the building will need. Volunteers wrote and sold a cook book. The proceeds raised several thousand dollars to help furnish the center.
In the early Spring of 2008, with the completion of the building apparently in view, and the time approaching for the center to submit their FY2009 budget/grant request to the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments, the agency that provides state assistance to the elderly, we had serious decisions to make. If we were to be able to reconstruct our seniors program and get building equipment for that program, our grant request would be far greater than it had been in the several years since we lost our old building and suspended much of our program. In response to our query about when we could expect to begin to use the building as our Senior Center, Dwight Cope, the Mayor of Medicine Park, sent us a letter in May, 2008, promising that our seniors program can begin in the building by January 1, 2009. With that promise, we compiled a list of needs and submitted the enhanced grant request to ASCOG. in August, we asked the town council to meet with our officers. Two town councilpersons, Otus Hennessee and Marty Hazelwood, and the town grant writer, Paul Fisher, were designated to meet with the senior center officers, Eva Williams, Alon Williams, Cecil Gardner, and Tom Spears.
The town representatives and the senior officers met in September (Minutes #1 ) and again in November (Minutes #2 ). Paul Fisher was designated as the primary town contact for the senior officers to coordinate their actions with the actions of the town and the town expenditures on the building. Tom Spears was designated as the primary senior center contact for the coordination of completion of the building.
In November 2008, Tom Spears created and funded this web site, www.wichitamountainseniors.org, to give area seniors and the public total insight into the progress being made by the seniors and the town in completing the building.
The rest of the story of the Wichita Mountains Area Senior Citizens quest for a center building in which to present our program, where senior volunteers got the building ready for occupancy, used it for a year and a half, became increasingly dissatisfied with the building, and moved the senior program to still another, larger, and more satisfactory accommodations is contained in articles in the "News" section of this web site. Those interested can keep informed about the building and the senior program by reading "Current News" The format of the "News" is oldest news at the bottom of the page, latest news being added to the top of the column as events occur.