Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Jean Hill likes to keep moving, so the new Frank Bailey Fitness Center in Riverdale is right up her alley.
"I love the Zumba classes, I am into personal fitness with Ben Howze. The water aerobics are excellent," said Hill, 68. "It's great for me because it keeps me moving, and it has what I need."
Hill is one of more than 100 who turned out Monday afternoon for the official opening of the fitness center. The crowd enjoyed performances by two local choirs and speeches by elected officials. Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell lauded the center's namesake -- a longtime politician now retired -- as an asset to the community.
"Why Frank Bailey? He visits hospitals and senior citizens even when he's not looking for votes, and many of you probably still get birthday cards from him," Bell said. "He has always been dedicated to wellness, and this is the first center in the Southern Crescent built with wellness in mind."
The center was built adjacent to the existing Frank Bailey Senior Center on Riverdale Road. It took five years for the $1.3 million project to reach fruition, Bell said. Housing and Urban Development funding came largely through the efforts of U.S. Rep. David Scott.
Scott, who represents Georgia's 13th District, also showered praise on Bailey for his longtime devotion to Clayton County.
"He is always standing up for the little fellow, and that's what I like about Frank Bailey," said Scott. "And he has those special qualities you look for in greatness. He knows who he is and whose he is -- a child of God -- he has discipline and he's sacrificed himself. That's why his name goes up on this building for all eternity."
Bailey said he is proud of the center, its staff and what it has to offer seniors, including himself.
"I have to leave home and come up here to be treated like somebody, but that's OK," he said, sharing a laugh with the crowd.
Jonesboro resident Gwendolyn Ann Howard is grateful to have a nice indoor center to burn off her excess energy.
"I do the Zumba classes," she said. "Before the center opened, I was doing my own workout at home and walking. But because of the center, I'm meeting friends, and I feel like I am a part of something. I've never seen so many people over the age of 55, and they are so youthful."
In addition to the popular Zumba classes, seniors can participate in strength-training, kick boxing, beginning yoga, Tai Chi, line dancing, spinning and a variety of dance classes.
Clayton County has taken some heat lately from seniors about an increase in the fee to use the centers, for residents and non-residents. Jean Hill drives down from Fulton County -- and pays the higher out-of-county resident fee -- to enjoy what the Clayton senior centers have to offer.
"They don't have the activities I enjoy back in Fulton," she said. "I don't like the increase in the fee, but if I want to get what I want, I have to pay for it, don't I?"
Information on all of the Clayton senior centers can be found at www.claytoncountyga.gov.