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Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center Underway and on the Way

by Clarence Thomas, Jr.

The August 3 ground breaking for the future Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center was important on several fronts. But most notably, its naming. And rightfully so according to many.

The longtime coming Macon-Bibb County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project was budgeted at 2.7 million dollars and will be overseen by construction company Warren Associates, Inc. at a total tune of $2,229,000. According to city officials the new center is part of a much larger revitalization for Central City Park including Luther Williams Field and softball fields.

Following three public meetings led by the Sizemore Group, and follow up meetings and input sessions with the Senior Center Advisory Committee, a location and design was settled upon. And helping to lead the charge was District 3 Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas. Her involvement was in line with how she has operated since entering the public service sector initially as a member of Macon City Council in 1983. The Macon native and retired educator has a legendary ledger of legwork. As a result, the senior center ad hoc committee comprised of center users and others agreed to urging the mayor and county commission to name the new senior center after Lucas at the request of local seniors. In the end, it was agreed upon by all, thus the name Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center.

Lucas herself has been supportive of the renaming of local public spaces after deserving citizens. She joined former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis, former Macon City Council President Anita Ponder and fellow city council members in the early 2000's in renaming Cotton Ave. after the late D.T. Walton – whose dental practice anchored the historic downtown street while practicing and is still a fixture. The former Unionville recreation center was renamed Frank Johnson Community Center around the same time by the city to honor the life of Frank J. Johnson, affectionately referred to as The Mayor of Unionville.

The groundbreaking drew a large crowd comprised of seniors, community activist, professionals, business leaders and politicians like Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Virgil Watkins, a member of the senior center ad hoc committee. Featured in the program was Mayor Robert Reichert, Macon Bibb County Commissioner Larry Schlesinger and former Macon Bibb County Industrial Authority Chairman Cliffard Whitby. Lucas was surrounded by her family members and friends as she thanked everyone involved in the process. "I'm honored to be here with you today and the center being named after me," said Lucas. "This building belongs to all of us. Because everybody played a part in it coming together and being named."

Robert Curry, Jr., 64, of Macon is the President of the Macon-Bibb Senior Center. He guided the group in the effort to get an agreeable building and location. He says the center should be a safe haven that allows older citizens to come together and continue leading an enjoyable life. He advocated naming the building after Lucas. "She was on the battlefield with us seeing the establishment of this building through. Seeing her name on the building will be a great reference for generations to come concerning a local person working in the spirit of Martin Luther King and Malcom X." Seventy-three-year-old Leroy Thomas, an iconic member of Macon’s media market, agrees with Curry. He too has a track record of service as the host of the 1970's and 1980's Ebony Speaks, local television's longest running show dedicated to issues affecting the Black community. "I have been knowing Elaine for a long time. She stuck with us from the very beginning. If it were not for her, there are a lot of things the Black community and others wouldn't have," says Thomas. Barbara Griggs of Macon is a senior center user. The founder of Spirit of Ruth Women’s Ministries is happy for Lucas. "I think it’s a great honor for her to be the recipient of this. It will allow children of future generations to know the work she has done," Griggs said following the ceremony.

Former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis supports renaming public properties after deserving citizens. He's glad to the county's continuation his administration’s effort. Many in the community are mentioning his name as a good fit for the front of the city’s historic Terminal Station downtown. Ellis convinced Georgia Power to resale the former rail station to Macon for $2 million. "Commissioner Lucas has been in the vineyard for some time. She has always supported the rights of seniors. I support those that saw it fit to name it after her and I look forward to seeing the center continue its services for seniors," Ellis said after speaking at Cirrus Academy's Parent Meeting recently. Andrea Lee, supervisor of the Macon-Bibb County Senior Center, is looking forward to providing services from the new site. "I look forward to more space and amenities that will allow us to do even more. The smile on the faces of the seniors at the groundbreaking says that they are excited about having this new building so we can continue improving their quality of life," Lee said. Lucas put a stamp on that. "I'm committed to the completion of this senior citizen project," she promised. "We have only begun our support and enhancement of services to our mature citizens who built and sustain this community."

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Elaine H. Lucas