Newport community in need of wellness center

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - The Newport Special School District has entered into a contract with the White River Area Agency on Aging to convert the old Castleberry Kindergarten building into a senior citizen center.

According to Director of Senior Center Services in Batesville Machelle Mitchell and Mayor David Stewart, the city of Newport is in need of a wellness center.

"It started a couple of years ago when we received an opportunity for a grant for renovation of a senior center," Mitchell said. "And the first place we thought of is Newport."

Mitchell said they're needing to move into a bigger facility to be able to offer wellness programs and more senior citizen activities for the Newport community.

"We started looking around the city and exploring locations," she said. "The Castleberry building was available. We had talked to the superintendent, Dr. Bennett, to discuss the idea of it, and he took it to his board. We also talked to the mayor to get his input and he's been very supportive of it."

Mayor Stewart said they were glad to refurbish a building that was no longer in use for the elementary school.

"It seems to be a good fit," Stewart said. "Everything is working out real well. We've used the Arkansas Department of Correction to help us with some of the demolition of the old building, and we'll start construction real soon."

Mayor Stewart said the city is fortunate to be able to partner with White River Area Agency on Aging and Unity Health Harris Medical Center.

After renovations, Darren Caldwell, administrator of Unity Health Harris Medical Center, said they plan to provide daily services at the senior center.

"We provide the meals," he said. "We provide the staff to make sure the activities are performed every day. We try to make sure time is set aside for the social as well as health aspects for all the people that participate at the center. Our job is the daily operations."

However, Mitchell said they're currently raising funds for furnishings to the kitchen and dining areas.

She said this project is expected to be complete early this summer.

If you're interested in making a donation, contact Margaret Goodman with Unity Health Harris Medical Center at (870) 523-8911.

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