Rec center to celebrate fifth year

Published 10:54 pm Friday, January 24, 2014

By Karen Washburn


The East Suffolk Recreation Center will host an open house Friday to commemorate five years of service to the Suffolk community. Tours of the facility, program demonstrations and giveaways, as well as the opportunity to meet and talk with staff, are all part of the celebration.

Jerome Rider works out in the East Suffolk Recreation Center’s fitness center on the elliptical machine on Friday.

Jerome Rider works out in the East Suffolk Recreation Center’s fitness center on the elliptical machine on Friday.

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The fully renovated former East Suffolk High School building, which now houses the facility, is approximately 22,500 square feet. The facility has a full-size gym, a commercial kitchen, multi-purpose room and a fitness facility, which boasts state-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment by Lifefitness. Its game room is filled with air hockey, foosball and pool tables, as well as interactive video games.

But office assistant Joanne Turner remembers when the facility was just a brick shell of a building and a promise. Turner, whose smiling face and bright personality greet everyone when they come through the door, has worked at the center since it opened. Her longevity is evident by the familiar way she interacts with members.

“Her favorite part of the job is the people,” said facility technician Sherry Williams. “Especially the seniors. They’re her babies.”

Turner agreed, saying she calls all the senior women “mama,” and all the senior men “daddy.” And, 75-year-old Mildred Jenkins, a regular fixture at the center, thinks Turner is “fabulous.”

“She has a disposition that won’t quit,” said Jenkins. “I told her I worry that if she doesn’t come to work, the building will fall down.”

But seniors aren’t the only members with whom Turner has a rapport.

“I’ve been here too long,” she joked. “You know you’ve been someplace too long when you start treating everyone else’s children like they’re yours.”

Turner said the center has the feeling of an active extended family, and the variety of countless classes, programs and activities, catering to every age, bear that out.



According to fitness specialist Michael Frickanisce, his area of the center is used by all ages, usually at different times, but the mornings generally belong to the seniors

“Baby boomers are filling gyms all over the country, and our facility is no exception,” he said.

Also for seniors, the center has a choir that performs at local nursing homes twice monthly, a community garden, and an upcoming Sweetheart’s Ball, Feb. 12. Jenkins said she loves the social gathering and camaraderie at the center.

“Once you get older, the more you mingle, the more you do, the healthier you are, the more you learn, the better your mind works,” said Jenkins.

The center partners with Southeastern Senior Services to provide transportation and meals, including some made with the vegetables grown by the seniors themselves in the community garden. Director Jason Jones said the center is big on partnerships.

Get Up and Get Out, for example, represents a partnership with the Obici Healthcare Foundation. The six-week program is designed to teach children ages 6 to 17, and their families, how to reap the benefits of making healthy choices.

“Children and their parents come to get healthy together as a family and learn about meal preparation. They even visit stores, learn to read labels to shop wisely,” Jones explained.

For teens, there are recreational offerings in the gymnasium and game room, fitness instruction, and outings to universities, sporting events, movies and the like.

“We try to expose them to new things,” Jones said. “Some of these kids may not have much opportunity to travel beyond Suffolk. This gives them that opportunity.”

Jones, who began directing the center in May, said the facility, open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 8 to noon on Saturdays, is busy from open to close, and is the best bargain available in a recreational facility.

Located at 138 S. Sixth St., the center’s open house on Friday will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. No membership is required to attend. Call 514-4500 for more information.