Home again: Better Sno-Valley Senior Center reopens after 7-month remodel | Photo gallery

Kitchen staff gather around cook and nutritionist Jennifer Berg to begin serving lunch in their first week back at Sno-Valley Senior Center in Carnation. One of the upgrades completed in the remodel was a new stove for the kitchen, but the bulk of the kitchen updates are planned for a later phase of the project.  - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Kitchen staff gather around cook and nutritionist Jennifer Berg to begin serving lunch in their first week back at Sno-Valley Senior Center in Carnation. One of the upgrades completed in the remodel was a new stove for the kitchen, but the bulk of the kitchen updates are planned for a later phase of the project.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

“You’ll be surprised!” a man tells two people, heading up the stairs. They’re about to see the new and improved second story of the Sno-Valley Senior Center, and they are about to be surprised.

Gone are the dark wood beams, the handmade quilts, and the sweeping balcony overlooking the first floor. In its place, there are two small activity rooms and a large “great room” plus restrooms, a reading nook with easy chairs, and a bank of computers arrayed down one hallway.

“I never would have dreamed there was this much room up here,” said member Donna Torluenke, on her first day back in the center.

Since last August, Torluenke, from Fall City, had been going to the center’s temporary home at Camp Don Bosco. The senior center building was closed for a $600,000 remodel to add activity rooms, restrooms and storage on the second floor, lower the soaring ceiling in the main hall, and make safety improvements throughout. Staff spent the week of April 23 to 27 moving back into the space, and opened the doors to their new old home on April 30.

“It was great here Monday morning, because people were coming by just to see it,” said volunteer receptionist Sandi Olsen. “The whole place was just vibrating with people’s excitement.”

At first, it was nervous excitement. Many couldn’t envision how lowering the height-of-the-building ceiling in the main hall—one of the senior center’s hallmarks for years —would affect the place.

“They were really worried,” said Denise McKenney, a volunteer driver for the center, who heard from many residents throughout the remodel. “Most of them were surprised how nice it looks.”

“We wondered how they were going to do it,” added Torluenke.

Fresh white walls and plenty of recessed lights in the white ceiling gave the room a dramatically different look, and an effect like the first day of sun after a long winter.

“It’s just so bright,” one woman chirped as she scurried in and out of the main hall, getting the noon meal ready to serve.

“It’s actually so bright… we used the dimmers in the exercise class,” said program coordinator Amy O’Bryant.

Quiet, too, said many members, who could actually converse and listen across the table about the new sushi place in town, or the national news. For a tall man like Del Moore, whose wife, Nancy, volunteers at the center, it was especially gratifying that the lowered ceiling did not result in a low ceiling.

“I’m really pleased with how this turned out. I thought the ceiling might be a lot lower,” he said.

Hap Berg was in the minority on the ceiling issue. He knew it would be fine years ago, when he “was the only member who was a general contractor,” and led a 1991 remodel of the space. He’s been waiting for it to happen since then.

“Isn’t this great?” he asks a staff member as he tours the upstairs improvements. “I wish my wife could have seen it.”

The late Mrs. Huntley Berg, he explained, “was fighting to have this space filled in then, and we had the architect, and we had the money to do it.”

They didn’t have the OK to do it back then, he added, “But it sure was worth waiting for.”

He was with the majority on that opinion.

People toured the building throughout the day, noting what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same, and always asking if people remembered how it was before. That link to the past was important, and the project planners clearly knew it.

“There are still places where you get back in touch with the original building, and the touches are lovely,” said Olsen. In the reception area, the wood ceiling stayed, and on the second floor, you can find beadboard accents at the top of one wall.

Oden points to the ceiling just above the second floor reading nook. “I like this part especially, because you can still see the sweep of the ceiling.”

Best of all, though, was just being back home.

“It’s so nice to be able to do equipment loans again,” said Olsen. Walkers and other medical aids normally loaned out from the senior center were put in storage during the remodel, and “That’s a big resource for the community,” Olsen said.

“Now we’re back here, I feel like we’re back in the community,” said McKenney.

Camp Don Bosco was a beautiful location, and “we felt very fortunate that we were able to stay there the entire time… We’re very grateful to Camp Don Bosco,” Amara Oden, senior center director said.

With its distance from Carnation and rustic setting, though, it was a challenge for some members, and attendance did drop off.

Beverly Hornig, a volunteer registering guests for lunch, said attendance has been rising steadily.

“Yesterday, they were already at 63,” she said. “They really like it here.”

Personally, she didn’t mind the compromise, but she is glad to be back.

“I am going to take my car to be washed today, I haven’t been able to wash it in months,” she announced. “I was also able to wear some nice heels today,” she said, showing them off. “It makes a big difference.”

The camp did offer even nicer accommodations for Adult Day Health, a day-long program for a variety of frail patients suffering from physical disabilities, dementia, and other conditions.

“We were in the Thunderbird Lodge,” said the program’s activity coordinator, Joan Wheeler, “and every day, we built this rip-roaring fire. It was great, we had S’mores, almost every day.”

But the lodge was a stand-alone building, and “it’s nice to have seniors around us again,” she added.

“Seven months was a long time to be out of this facility, for all of our seniors,” said Oden, who is already pursuing grants for future renovations to the building. New siding will probably be installed this summer, Oden said, and “the plan is ultimately to reconfigure some more spaces upstairs, to redo our adult day health area, and to remodel the kitchen.”

Until then, members will just enjoy what they’ve got.

“I think we all approve of it,” said Torluenke. “We can be very proud of this.”

Learn more about the Sno-Valley Senior Center at

Above, Senior Center Director Amara Oden, right, describes some of the changes in the newly remodeled Sno-Valley Senior Center to Hap Berg, who helped with the center’s last big update in 1991.

Below, hitting a balloon around the new and improved main hall, members of the Adult Day Health program are happy to be back with other seniors, but they’ll miss the big fire and s’mores they had at Camp Don Bosco, where they stayed during the remodel.

Above, Amy O’Bryant, program coordinator, gives Donna Turluenke a brief tour of the new computer lab in the senior center. The computers, at the top of the stairs, are directly across from a large piece of beadboard wall, left alone in the remodel.

Below, lunching in their bright new surroundings, seniors had a lot of good things to say—and hear —about the new main hall, which had its ceiling lowered dramatically during the remodel, reducing echoes and adding brightness.


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