Karen Main lights candles on top of Lillian Donaghy’s birthday cake on Feb. 7, when Donaghy turned 99. The birthday bash happened amid a reopening party at the Buttonwood Senior Center, which had been closed for renovations since June 15, 2018. The center is now reopened and offering programs for the public.


This article originally appeared in the February 2019 edition of Senior Scope. Article and photos by Seth Thomas.

Following an extensive rehabilitation, the Buttonwood Senior Center, located at 1 Oneida St. in Buttonwood Park, has reopened.

The building shut down on June 15, 2018 and opened again nearly seven months later on Feb. 4. Renovations were largely made possible with a grant from The City of New Bedford’s Department of Planning, Housing and Community Development.

The original structure, built in 1930, was initially a warming house for ice skaters at Buttonwood Park. The rehabilitation project included updates to the roof, the trim, the kitchen and bathrooms. For the first time the center has Wi-Fi access.

When asked about the renovations, most commented on how bright the main room appeared, thanks to new lighting, insulated windows and a sturdy green door that overlooks the former skating pond out back.

On Feb. 7, representatives from the city held a party to welcome back the center regulars. For the past seven months, patrons were sent to the Hazelwood Senior Center or the Acushnet Council on Aging for programming.

Pamela Amaral-Lema, an administrative specialist at the New Bedford Council on Aging, said the project involved numerous agencies. She and Debra Lee, the director of New Bedford’s Council on Aging, expressed their thanks to Community Development, the Department of Facilities and Fleet Management, the Council on Aging team including its board members, Parks and Recreation, the mayor’s office and the Acushnet Council on Aging.

“And we thank our seniors for being patient,” said Amaral-Lema.

“On behalf of the City Council, welcome back to the Buttonwood Senior Center,” said City Council President Linda Morad. “Now you can continue to make friends and make good memories here.”

“We needed to have something done for a while. I’m very happy that it’s been renovated,” said Bruce Duarte, Chairman of the Board for the New Bedford Council on Aging. “They did an excellent job here, and I think it’s going to be beneficial for the staff that works here, but also the seniors.”

Mary Ellen Spooner, who served as the activity director of the center until she retired in 2014, said the new renovations were “tremendous.” She said the center offers more programs now than when she worked at the facility, and the center has been considered the central hub of New Bedford’s senior centers.

“I’m expecting Buttonwood to come back better than ever. Just coming in now is so refreshing. I couldn’t get over it. When I walked in, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s like a whole new place,’” said Spooner. “I know everybody’s so happy to be back at Buttonwood.”

The welcome back party also served as the setting for a birthday bash. The day the center reopened coincided with Lillian Donaghy’s 99th birthday. In addition to volunteering with the New Bedford Council on Aging for the past 40 years, Donaghy started New Bedford’s travel program and served as the first coordinator at Buttonwood.

Beyond her extensive work with the city, Donaghy also had a new designation to add to the list: the first person to blow out birthday candles in the newly renovated Buttonwood Senior Center.

Contact the Buttonwood Senior Center at 508-991-6170.


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