Tolles Parsons Senior Center opens in Wellesley

It’s official. The Tolles Parsons Center is open and receiving Wellesley’s senior citizens for everything from lunch several times a week to games of pick-up mah-jongg, to essential services provided by an on-site social worker located in a private office on the second floor. I stopped by to get a tour from the Council on Aging and take some pictures. I’ve stood in the rain to cover the Tolles Parsons Center. I’ve hovered behind contractor fencing to take exterior shots. Finally, I was welcomed in to see the finished product.

Here are some pics:

The entryway to activities and services galore. In May 2016, Wellesley voters approved about $5.5 million in borrowing for this standalone senior center on Washington Street. It’s a project that got its start with a former Wellesley resident Billie Tolles’ $825K bequest to the town back in 2005. Results of the 2016 vote were 2,217 yes votes (56%) and 1,722 no votes, with 25% of registered voters going to the polls.

 

Just add senior citizens. When the project was underway, many told me they never thought they’d see the day. There were even a few seniors who claimed they weren’t going anywhere — and they did mean ANYWHERE — until they finally stepped across the threshold of the new building. Here, visitors enjoy lunch provided by Express Gourmet, located at 11 River St., Wellesley Hills. Diners pay $4 for the hot lunch. The meal, an $8 value, is subsidized by the Wellesley Council on Aging.

 

Wellesley Tolles-Parsons Center
A cozy spot. The bookcases and woodwork throughout the Center is American Black Cherry. Over the years, arguments were made about whether a standalone facility for seniors was really needed, and if building it at the 494-496 Washington St. space would create traffic problems and other issues for neighbors. Despite those concerns, Town Meeting members gave the project a thumbs up in April 2016, setting the stage for the special election that resulted in a voters OK for the approximately $9M project.

Wellesley Tolles-Parsons Center
My tour guide, Gayle Thieme, Director of Senior Services for the Wellesley Council on Aging, strikes a pose on the terrace. “We expect a few hundred visitors a day, up from 75-100 at the former building,” she said. “Already we have had 600 people come through on Monday and Tuesday, and yesterday we were full from open until close. Everyone is so thrilled with the building.”

 

Wellesley Tolles-Parsons Center
Long-time Wellesley resident and Wellesley College Class of 1950 graduate Nancy Abuhaydar says, “Everybody I’ve heard from has only good things to say” about the Center. (Love her shirt. Missoni?)

 

Wellesley Tolles-Parsons Center
I wasn’t the only one touring the facility. Left to right: Bob and Sandy Ow, Wellesley residents for 42 years; and Betty Lee, Wellesley resident for 53 years. At times during the heated campaign, opponents of the Center countered that a rise in taxes as a result of the project would actually force many older residents to leave town. This group doesn’t look like they’re going to let any old senior center run them off.

 

Wellesley Tolles-Parsons Center
The Mary Bowers Cafe. Bowers is legendary as the prime mover, principal organizer, chief spokesperson, and cheerleader for the Wellesley COA volunteer efforts. The multi-purpose room (not pictured), still partially under construction, is named the John and Dwin Schuler Multi-Purpose Room. Schuler was born and raised in town, has been a Town Meeting member for 65 years, and has been involved in countless activities, including the Wellesley Trails Committee. Dwin has been active as a community supporter and organizer in multiple activities.

 

Wellesley Tolles-Parsons Center
The Athletic Room. There will be a nominal yearly fee for access to the room, which is expected to open in November. Scholarships will be available to those who cannot pay the fee.

 

Wellesley Tolles-Parsons Center
Pool tables await friendly games. No hustlers, please. According to the 2010 Census, there are 5,429 residents in town over the age of 60. Director of Senior Services Gayle Thieme estimates that the number of daily visitors to the new Center will triple from that of the former Community Center location. She cites easier building access as compared to the Community Center, and a more permanent feel to the programs as the reasons for her projection.