A project is underway that will more than double the size of a North Las Vegas senior center.
A groundbreaking ceremony for a 7,500-square-foot addition was held Oct. 16 at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior Center. The approximately $7 million county-funded project will include a larger multipurpose room, a TV room and two outdoor patios, each with a small garden. The project is slated for completion in July.
The senior center, which is at the Clark County Community Resource Center, provides services to those 55 and older. The 6,359-square-foot center, operated by the Economic Opportunity Board of Southern Nevada, opened in 1997.
Offerings include weekday lunches, food available twice a month from Three Square food bank, health screenings, crafts, monthly birthday parties, computer classes and workshops on topics such as how to avoid scams and manage chronic pain. Senior center officials say it offers a family-like atmosphere with socialization opportunities.
Many seniors struggle to pay for medications and food, said Lawrence Weekly, vice chairman of the Clark County Commission, whose district includes the senior center. “This center actually saves a lot of lives.”
Seniors ages 60 and older don’t have to pay for lunch at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior Center. Those ages 55-59 are asked to donate $3.
The center serves lunch to about 72 seniors daily. The cafeteria is often packed; a sign on a wall says the room’s capacity is 76.
With the expansion project, “the main thing is space,” Weekly said. “They are cramped in here.”
The multipurpose room will be able to accommodate 200 seniors, and partitions will allow the space to be divided into multiple classrooms, if needed.
About two years ago, seniors from the Martin Luther King Jr. Senior Center came to the county commission asking for more space, Weekly said.
“This expansion was senior-driven,” he said.
Byron Goynes, the senior center’s program director, likened the expansion to moving from a studio apartment to a five-bedroom house. The seniors, he said, are “just ecstatic.”
Lillian Thomas started volunteering at the center when she retired more than seven years ago after working for 28 years as a casino cashier.
The 66-year-old serves lunch at the center to those who have a disability. She also volunteers in the computer room and is on a decorating committee.
Thomas said she loves being involved at the center and she’s excited about the addition.
“We were outgrowing this small space,” she said.
The cafeteria is too small, Thomas said, and once the room is at capacity, seniors have to wait in an overflow room that’s used for crafts.
Some seniors have been coming to the Martin Luther King Jr. Senior Center for more than 10 years, Goynes said. Some even know his family and remember when he was a child.
The seniors have worked hard throughout their lives, Goynes said, and he wants to make sure they’re taken care of.
“I just treat them like kings and queens because they definitely deserve it,” he said.
Goynes — previously, a longtime Las Vegas planning commissioner — grew up four blocks away from the senior center. He’s from a politically connected family: His father, Theron Goynes, is a former North Las Vegas city councilman and was principal of Booker Elementary School in Las Vegas, just down the street from the senior center. His sister, Pamela Goynes-Brown, is a North Las Vegas city councilwoman.
Goynes Elementary School in North Las Vegas was dedicated in 2005 in his parents’ honor. Theron H. Goynes Park in North Las Vegas was, too, in 1998.
Membership is growing at the senior center, with about 10 newcomers each month, Goynes said. The largest events at the center draw about 120 seniors, and monthly birthday parties typically bring in up to 112.
Once the building expansion project is done, extra space will allow the senior center to add more activities. For instance, Goynes wants to start gardening groups where seniors can grow ingredients such as herbs that the center’s two chefs can incorporate into lunches.
Since becoming program director about a year ago, Goynes has put out automated calls to about 1,300 members to keep them updated on center activities. Each one ends with a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote.
Martin Luther King Jr. Senior Center
When: Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. weekdays
Where: 2420 N. Martin Luther King Blvd., Building B