Benjamin Gaither Center Reopens Today in Gaithersburg
The newly expanded and renamed center serves those ages 55+ and was formerly known as the Gaithersburg Senior Center.
“Gaithersburg is committed to being an inclusive community that honors its history and embraces its future. We ensure that our programs and facilities are welcoming to all ages and all cultures. You’ll be able to witness that commitment each and every day at the new Benjamin Gaither Center,” said Mayor Jud Ashman.
Started in the fall of 2014, renovation work included the repurposing and expansion of the lobby area. It now houses a 1,000 square foot Fitness Center with 14 pieces of cardiovascular and strength training equipment. The administration area was redesigned, the Computer and Lecture Rooms were expanded, and a partition was added to the Founders Room to allow for concurrent programming. The entire Center was refreshed with new flooring, paint and lighting.
“Because the facility could not accommodate a large addition, staff looked at current programming and identified spaces that were underutilized,” said Michele Potter, Director of the Gaithersburg Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture. “By repurposing the lobby and a former craft room, we can now offer state-of-the-art fitness equipment on-site, along with an enhanced Computer Lab that allows our members to participate in computer-based learning and connect with family and friends on social media.”
Along with the renovations came an opportunity to rename and rebrand the Center. First opened in 1991, the Center has become a place of learning and socialization for a membership that spans forty years in age. “Our research showed that a large segment of the population does not associate with the name ‘senior,’ and that ‘Senior Center’ is often misconstrued as a nursing home or adult daycare facility,” said Community Facility Manager Grace Whipple. “Our members, who range in age from 55 to upwards of 90, are an active, engaged group. While updating the Center’s amenities, we took advantage of an opportunity to update its name as well.”
The Center, which is available for community use in the evenings and on weekends, is named for Benjamin Gaither, an early settler who built his home on three acres of land adjacent to Deer Park, near the famous Forest Oak tree. The tree, upon which the City’s logo is based, served as a historical symbol for the City until it was toppled in a storm in 1997. In the early 1800’s Benjamin Gaither owned a blacksmith shop and tavern. History indicates that his store-tavern was also used as one of the area’s first post offices.
The renovations to the Benjamin Gaither Center totaled $923,625. A State of Maryland Bond Bill in the amount of $200,000 assisted with the project. Design/Build work was done by Milmar Architects, Inc. and the HBW Group.