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'We're very proud': Upper Fruitland welcomes new senior center

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
A banner designed by community members hangs at the newly opened Upper Fruitland Senior Center on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

UPPER FRUITLAND — After helping cut the ribbon to dedicate the new Upper Fruitland Senior Center, Maxine John carefully folded the narrow strip of fabric and placed it with her event program.

John is the center's senior council president and was among those who welcomed the new facility on Dec. 13.

It took 12 years for the structure to become reality. It will replace the existing facility, which has maintenance problems and does not provide enough space, chapter officials said.

Throughout the years, work was done to garner support, secure funding, obtain clearances and meet other requirements for building the new facility.

While a groundbreaking ceremony was held in September 2014, construction did not start until January.

The tribe's senior citizens program is under the Division of Long-Term Aging Care Support, and senior centers are in communities across the Navajo Nation.

Upper Fruitland community seniors listen to speakers at the opening of the Upper Fruitland Senior Center on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

The existing center in Upper Fruitland provides services to Navajos who are 60 and older, with many residing in the chapters of Upper Fruitland, Nenahnezad and San Juan.

"It's amazing. It's awesome," John said about the new building.

As for the piece of ribbon, she plans to frame it or place it inside a memory book.

"Those are memorable things. You can always say I was part of the ribbon cutting when they opened the new senior center," John said.

The new building is located north of the chapter house. It houses a large gathering space, kitchen, laundry room and new appliances.

Community members enjoy the newly opened Upper Fruitland Senior Center on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

Upper Fruitland resident Gertrude Bedonie's eyes brightened when she walked into the kitchen.

"This is twice as big as the kitchen over there," Bedonie said, referring to the old center.

"I was teasing the cook. I said, 'you're going to have to wear roller skates over here.' We're very proud of it and very grateful," she said.

Chapter President Lynlaria Dickson said the structure cost approximately $990,000 and it received funding from the state, the chapter and a public facility projects grant from the Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Department.

"Now, we can bring our families to the new senior center. Hopefully, the younger generation will be here and show more of an interest for our grandparents," Dickson said.

Reverend Cannon Cornelia Eaton of The Episcopal Church in Navajoland speaks at the opening of the Upper Fruitland Senior Center on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

While many advocated through the years for the new building, chapter representatives commended the work done by former Navajo Nation Council Delegate and Speaker LoRenzo Bates, former New Mexico State Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage and current state Rep. Anthony Allison.

The Arviso Construction Company built the facility and Indigenous Design Studio + Architecture served as project managers.

"You know, the elders took care of us when we were young and now, we are tasked to take care of them," said Jim Dumont, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich's office in Farmington.

"This facility will provide a good meal for them, a time for them to socialize, to be together and to look out for one another," Dumont added.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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