Get out your checkbooks, Milton.
Plans were unveiled this week for a new $2.3 million CHEER Activity Center on Del. Route 16 in Milton. However, the organization, which operates seven centers in Sussex County that provide activities and nutrition for residents over the age of 50, needs community contributions to build the new facility.
CHEER Executive Director Arlene Littleton said the capital campaign goal is $1 million, to be combined with grants from the Longwood Foundation, the Delaware Community Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We're doing everything we can in a bad economy and we hope [the community] will help us," Littleton said, adding the group began fundraising this week and has already collected about $6,000.
CHEER is currently utilizing a facility on Reynolds Road in Milton, which they share with a local youth group, limiting the organization's ability to hold activities at certain times. The smaller size of the building and its lack of a commercial kitchen are also problematic.
"This center was never meant to be permanent," Littleton said, adding the new facility's kitchen will allow CHEER to deliver food to more homebound seniors. "The Milton area is one of our highest homebound meal (delivery) locations. We have almost 100 meals delivered out of this center every day."
As it stands, food is prepared in Georgetown and driven to Milton.
Longneck resident Naomi Morrison said she and her mother, Esther Mitchell of Milton, love the CHEER center, but agree that a new facility is needed.
"This is just too small," Morrison said. "You can't really have events here. A larger space would be much more comfortable for us."
The new activity center will be built on 4.35 acres of land, located less than a mile from the existing facility. The 6,000 square-foot building will feature meeting and activity rooms, a fitness center, a banquet hall, a commercial kitchen, and office spaces. Littleton said CHEER expects to break ground in May or June. Actual construction will begin in March 2014 and will hopefully wrap up before the end of the year, she added.
CHEER Development Director David Tidwell said although the campaign's timing is not economically ideal, he's confident the group will achieve its $1 million goal.
"Checks won't be as large and they won't be as plentiful," Tidwell said. "[But] this center really needs to be upgraded, and I think there's a lot of enthusiasm in the community for it. I think we'll do well."