January 28, 2021

Jackman’s Sky Lodge to become senior center

Sky Lodge in Jackman is about to become something entirely different, thanks to the wishes of its housekeepers and the support of its owners.

The Couri Foundation, based in Connecticut and founded by John and Elaine Couri in 1989, owns Sky Lodge, which for the last 15 years has served as a “base of operations” for a camp for underprivileged children conducted by the foundation, said Tim Gonyo, who managed Sky Lodge.

“We were considering no longer running the motel, and an idea came up,” Gonyo explained.

One day, when the Couris were at the motel, they played a video for the Sky Lodge housekeepers of the opening of Hammond Street Senior Center in Bangor, which the Couris established in 1999.

“They’re all seniors, themselves,” Gonyo said of the housekeepers, “and they said, ‘Boy, we wish we had something like that up here.'”

John Couri was leaving that day, Gonyo continued, but “before John left, he asked, ‘What do you think of turning the motel into a senior center?'”

After conducting a study, the decision was made that “we had enough people to serve if we extended it to seniors within a 50-mile radius, covering Greenville and Bingham,” Gonyo reported.

Thus, Moose River Valley Center came to be.

“Basically, we’ll follow the program of the Hammond Street Senior Center,” said Gonyo whose job description suddenly changed from motel manager to senior center director.

“We’ll start small, but we’ll expand,” he said. “We’ll do on-the-road programs like Bangor – have movies, games, crafts and computers.”

The grand opening will be Monday, Jan. 5.

The facility will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, on a limited basis, Gonyo explained of the startup of the operation.

“Our age limit is a little bit different [than HSSC] because of the population, so we’ll start at 55. The membership will be free, and some programs will have a modest fee.”

Gonyo said that “the folks at Hammond Street are helping us out with this,” and he is excited about being director of the new senior center.

“It’s a wonderful population to work with,” he said.

He also hopes the experience he’s had “through trips to the Bangor center and having a lot of them stay here” will help make the transition a smooth one.

Listening to the enthusiasm in his voice when he speaks of this new endeavor, I’ve no doubt it will be.

For more information about becoming a member of the Moose River Valley Center, call Gonyo at 668-2171.

Donald Awalt, the 14-year-old Ellsworth boy seriously burned in October when his Halloween costume allegedly was set on fire by a high school classmate, made it home from a Boston hospital for the holidays, and is hoping he won’t have to return there for more treatment.

Recently, the mother of another youngster who spent considerable time in a Boston hospital called to tell me how much it meant to her child to receive wishes for good health, cards and letters during that hospital stay, and she wanted to know if we had Awalt’s hospital address so that others might do the same for him.

According to Donald’s grandfather and legal guardian, Earl “Buzzy” Awalt, the boy may be well enough to stay home for good.

However, young Awalt is not expected to return to school any time soon and, while he is being tutored at home, he will also be receiving physical therapy.

While he is recovering at home, I am sure that cards and letters of encouragement would help keep his spirits up until he is able to go back to school again.

You can send your best wishes to Donald Awalt, 26 Washington St., Ellsworth 04605.

Attention winter hikers!

Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area director Judy Marden will lead a late-morning New Year’s hike or snowshoe on Sunday, Jan. 4, at the conservation area in Phippsburg.

The outing is part of a three-season series of events marking the 25th anniversary of Bates College’s stewardship of the 600-acre area that includes woods, upland, salt marsh and what is believed to be Maine’s last undeveloped barrier beach.

For additional information, or to register, call Marden at 786-6078.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; 990-8288.

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