#ThrowbackThursday: March 16, 2006

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With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published March 16, 2006.

Grand Opening of the Levine Senior Center

Over thirty years ago, a group of mature adults began meeting and called themselves the Happy Times Club. As their numbers increased, the group realized there was a need for a place that reaches out to the growing number of seniors. That dream was realized Sunday with the Grand Opening of the Levine Senior Center located at 1050 DeVore Lane off Northeast Parkway across from the Sycamore Commons Shopping Center. Approximately 600 people attended, filling the parking lot of the Senior Center and spilling over into Dick’s Sporting Goods store where they were taken by bus up to the center. The weather could not have been more perfect for the opening. As Reverend John Butler from First Baptist Church said, “This is the fulfillment of a dream and will be a blessing for many years to come for the entire community.”

Congresswoman Sue Myrick presented the Providence High School Navy Junior ROTC, under Lt. Commander Larry Parker, with a United States flag. State of North Carolina Speaker of the House Jim Black presented the ROTC with a North Carolina state flag. Jan Burris, representing Leon Levine Foundation (Leon and Sandra Levine), presented the ROTC with a Levine Senior Center flag. Nancy LaFond sang the National Anthem. After the Pledge of Allegiance, the cornerstone was unveiled. The ribbon on the entrance to the center was but by Iris DeVore, the Levine Senior Center Board of Directors, the Matthews Chamber of Commerce, and Levine Center Employees. Attendees then proceeded to the Happy Times Banquet Hall inside the center. Steve Combs, Pastor at Matthews United Methodist Church offered the opening prayer. Mayor Myers welcomed everyone. There was not an empty seat in the room. Attendees two deep surrounded those seated in the Happy Times Banquet Hall and spilled into the hallways and kitchen.

Speaker Jim Black noted, “this was one of the best private/public partnerships anywhere.” Speaker black was very instrumental in getting grants from the State of North Carolina for $20,000 last year and $200,000 this year. Speaker black noted his third-grade teacher, Margaret Phillips, was in attendance and they had a rich heritage. He also noted that Mayor Lee Myers had worked tirelessly getting the center to be a reality. Speaker Black commented that it was wonderful to see so many people for the Grand Opening and noted the many years of service the center offered and the possibilities for its use was endless.

Mayor Myers gave a brief history of the center. IN November 2000, Crosland and Faison donated 9.8 acres of prime property to assist in the center’s development. Council members Kress Query and Martha Krauss were extremely instrumental in obtaining this donation. Non-profit status was acquired and plans were completed to build the 19,500 square foot building that offers exercise programs, educational classes, and social stimulation. In 2003, the Leon and Sandra Levine Foundation challenged seniors with a three to one match up to $1,000,000. This challenge was met with the help of a generous community and the center was named the Levine Senior Center. Mayor Lee Myers and Councilmember Paula Lester were most instrumental in obtaining this donation. Opening this week, the center will offer a variety of services and activities that respond to diverse needs and interests while enhancing the dignity and independence of mature adults. The center will also serve as the community resource for information on aging and support services.

Jan Burris read a letter from Leon and Sandra Levine to Iris DeVore, applauding her for her dedication, hard work, and love she had poured into making the Levine Senior Center a reality. Mr. Levine stated that she had made a real difference to the Town of Matthews and to the community. He said the Matthews community had been good to him and to Family Dollar.

Iris DeVore thanked everyone for coming out for the dedication. She said to expect a miracle and this center is the miracle. She said she had never felt so humble and blessed. “God is so good - so very good,” she said, and then quoted Proverbs 16 - “Commit your plans to the Lord.” She also encouraged everyone in attendance to live now, age later, and celebrate life.

Architect Troy Luttman, Builder Everitt Curlee and Edie Bryant, onsite Supervisor and Art Droste onsite Superintendent were recognized. Special thanks went to Carriage Club of Charlotte, Harris Teeter and Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley for refreshments, and to the Plantation Swingers for entertainment.

In closing, Mayor Myers encouraged attendees to make good use of the building. He said to fill the building in order to pay the mortgage. He thanked Jerry McGuire and Bank of Granite and every person in the Happy Times Banquet Hall for their contributions. John Butler from First Baptist Church offered the closing prayer.