THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of its opening as well as the 90th birthday of one of the center’s most generous benefactors, Don Blackburn.
Members gathered at the Council on Aging (COA) center May 2 for the festivities, enjoying lunch, birthday cake and music from performer Don Miniard, as well as the storytelling of Blackburn and fellow benefactor and COA Board Member Bruce Barber. It was only fitting that the gold shovel used for the center’s groundbreaking ceremony stood behind the two men as they reminisced about working together to open the facility.
“Every time I come here, I am more pleased with the decision that we made to support getting the new senior center,” said Blackburn, who along with his wife LaVonne contributed $150,000 to furnish the facility. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of the time I’ve spent here. It’s a tremendous return on our investment.”
Blackburn explained that his wife was the “spark” that initiated their support. She read an article in The Recorder, he said, about an individual trying to establish a senior center in Ponte Vedra and consequently suggested they back the effort. Blackburn then partnered with fellow Rotary members Bruce Maguire, who also serves on the Board of County Commission, and Barber as well as other involved Ponte Vedra residents to find the Landrum Lane property on which the center now stands.
Blackburn and Barber presented a proposal for the center before the county commissioners that would have resulted in the construction of a 4,000 to 5,000-square foot senior center costing $300,000. The commissioners responded so positively to the public/private proposal, however, that they not only approved it but suggested the center increase in size to 10,000 square feet, for which they would allocate $1.3 million for its development.
“We did nothing but cheer,” said Barber, who was also responsible for wooing THE PLAYERS to contribute $30,000 toward the project. “That’s why we have this beautiful building.”
Ten years after its opening, the center has served more than 3,000 seniors and provides 100 hours of programming to the community each week, which COA Executive Director Becky Yanni said is the product of a dedicated team.
“It was a community effort,” said Yanni. “You can get a lot done with a dedicated group of people who have a vision, and that’s what we’re seeing here today.”