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The Norman Center rises again Richard Pena | Sun, Aug 07 2011 12:00 PM

It was last December, sometime around Christmas, that I wrote a piece about the Norman Park Center.

At that time it was a bit difficult to say something uplifting about the center. The city fathers had recently announced that a number of entities in the city would have to close, due to lack of the necessary funds in the city’s coffers. The center was one of the few scheduled for closure.

I was one of those who regularly visited the center. Each Tuesday morning I joined a group of folks, all with ukuleles under their arms, and sent musical airs about the premises.

We were just a scant few of the many who took advantage of the center’s offering. Many others were on hand taking classes, learning to dance, or merely spending some time with other seniors of the area. All in all, it was a happy and contented portion of the population who were there.

I recall walking out of the center on the day that we heard of its closing. We looked up at the building, a relatively new structure we might add, built for the benefit of those seniors of the community. I recalled, at that time, some senior centers that I had visited in various parts of the state. All were well maintained and well attended. But all were in buildings that had been erected years ago for some other purpose. There was one up north that was housed in an abandoned fire station. There was one in Orange County that had been part of a school. And, I suspect, there were many others of that same type scattered about the state.

But not in Chula Vista. This was a building of unique architecture.

It was aesthetically pleasing to the eye, a characteristic that, coupled with the utilitarian trait of its making, vied as one of the city structures existing for what it was made. In addition to that it was housed right in the heart of the city, on F Street, the beginning of much of the town’s history.

I would say that the site of the building on F Street could and should be termed as hallowed ground, if not in a spiritual sense, then surely in a historical one.

For many years it was the locale of the F Street School, one of the city’s first elementary schools, and then later the city library, one of those structures erected in the ’30s to house what was known as the Carnegie Library.

In a pervious interview with Kathy Wiggington, a former director of the center, some months back we learned that some of the staff members, on a still, quiet afternoon, could hear the faint cries and laughs of children at play. This is, of course, another story. In the past couple of weeks we have learned of some positive events happening at the center.

I had a nice talk with Frank Carson, the director. He tells me, first of all, that the center will be closed for annual building maintenance starting on Aug. 13. It will reopen on Sept. 6. And this time it will be open for 55 hours per week. This means that nearly all the activities that the center had to offer in its pre-closing days will return with other activities added.

Carson wants to be on the same page as the attending seniors.

He, therefore, is scheduling two needs assessment public forums.

The first of these was yesterday and the other will be Wednesday, Aug. 10, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. All people who regularly use the center are asked to voice their suggestions.

In that December column I likened the center to the phoenix of yore; you know, the one that rose out of the ashes to fly again.

The Norman Park Center is, I believe, on the launching pad ready to soar once more.

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