Making space

Excited voices created a din inside The Social of Greenwood as dozens of people sat down for their weekly Euchre matches.

Participants filled the main gathering room of the center, with every table full. So many people had come out that teams had to sit in side rooms, in the wellness center — wherever organizers could find space.

“There will be so many people coming in to play today that they spill out into the gym and other places,” said Andrea Sutherland, executive director for The Social of Greenwood

With more than 1,300 members, space is at a premium during many events at The Social. But with the help of a $500,000 grant, the organization hopes to solve its growing pains.

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Leaders of The Social of Greenwood plan to renovate and expand its existing facility with a massive building project. Improvements will include a larger wellness area, creating room dividers that can be removed to cater to larger crowds and redoing bathrooms and hallways. A completely revamped food pantry will provide easier access to the more than 500 families who come to The Social each month for food assistance.

All of the changes have been planned to accommodate a growing membership and to better meet the needs of Johnson County seniors, said Keri Brantley, board president for the The Social of Greenwood.

“We provide a place for active seniors to engage each other in a lot of different ways,” she said. “For us to get this grant, it means we can not only better serve those who are currently part of our family, but we can expand and serve more of the growing senior population.”

The Social of Greenwood has been a mainstay in the community since 1979, providing activities, social opportunities and services to older adults. People come every day of the week for communal meals, exercise programs, club meetings and dance lessons.

The center opens its food pantry three times a week. Families in need of help typically fill the waiting room, and spill outside when there’s no more room. More than 8,000 individuals are fed each year through the program, Sutherland said.

In 2015, the center started offering Rock Steady Boxing. The program uses boxing moves and total-body workouts to help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Though it is one of The Social’s more popular offerings, finding space for a large-scale workout session is increasingly difficult, Sutherland said.

Finding space for programs is a challenge that grows every day, Sutherland said. While membership was about 400 in 2010, that number has ballooned to 1,300.

“Even in Johnson County, there are not a lot of resources for seniors in our area,” Sutherland said. “We spend a lot of time coming up with programming that speaks to them, and word of mouth has helped The Social become more popular than it ever has before.”

The Social has called the same building on Polk Street home since it opened, with additions and renovations helping adapt to the growth. But those individual projects have left a maze of side rooms and nooks that make for an inefficient use of their 6,500 square feet of space.

“While this building has done us well, we just can’t accommodate everybody anymore,” Sutherland said. “The increase in our membership and use of our services has increased so much. We just couldn’t keep up in the space we were in.”

Planning for an expansion project has been ongoing for more than a year, as the board of directors worked with Sutherland to determine the best approach to its needs.

The Social applied for a Community Development Block Grant, awarded through the state Office of Community and Rural Affairs for cities and towns to improve quality of life and health for residents. On Aug. 23, it was announced that The Social had been given $500,000.

The entirety of the renovation project will cost about $600,000, and The Social has been fundraising and contributing money that combined with the grant will allow it to begin work, Sutherland said. Organizers are planning a “Raise the Roof” benefit on Oct. 4, with all proceeds going towards the construction project.

Working with Springpoint Architects, officials have put together a plan to better use the space they have and add new pieces to the building as well.

The fitness center at the rear of the building will double in size. A multi-purpose meeting room is set to expand slightly, but will have a removable dividing wall that will allow it to connect with the gym for a space that is larger than they’ve ever had before.

With more space, the Social plans to offer technology-based classes and seminars that it just couldn’t house before, Sutherland said.

“It’s going to make it more inclusive,” she said.

Double-doors and more space in the food pantry will help more people get in and out of the food pantry, increasing the assistance that the pantry is able to provide.

The entrance to the facility will be completely redone. New offices will allow staff members to work together more efficiently. Hallways will be widened, entrances will be modified and bathrooms redone.

“We spent hours going over everything, walking through it and making sure we’re getting as much as we could with the money we could have, and making it make sense,” Sutherland said.

One of the driving forces behind the expansion and grant application was Charles “Chuck” Landon, an active member of the Greenwood community, a city council member and a board member at The Social of Greenwood. Landon died on Aug. 8, and in his memory, officials plan to name the newly created library at the center after him.

“He would read a book a day, so we wanted to name this the Landon Library, since he helped steer the ship on this on a major way,” Sutherland said.

With the grant in hand, meetings will start in early September to begin finalizing plans and creating a time-table for the project. Currently, there is no start date or expected finish for the new building, Sutherland said.

Throughout construction, The Social will remain open to its members. Officials will try to disrupt as few of the programs and activities as they can, while ensuring that everyone who comes to the center remains safe, Sutherland said.

Much work remains before the new facility is maximizing its potential to serve members. But for those who have been pushing for this project, it’s a time to take pride in their success so far.

“To actually see something that’s been a vision and that so many people have been working behind become a reality, I can’t explain it,” Sutherland said.

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The Social of Greenwood expansion and renovation

What: Officials are planning a project to reconfigure and expand the existing 6,500-square-foot home of The Social. The exact square footage that will be added is still being figured out.

What will be done:

  • A new entrance will be constructed
  • Offices will be combined to better use space
  • A library, named after board member Charles “Chuck” Landon, will be added. 
  • The fitness center will double in size.
  • Hallways will be expanded.
  • A removable dividing wall will be installed in the multipurpose room so that it can removed and create a larger gathering space with the fitness center.
  • The food pantry will be expanded, with double doors and more space to better serve people.

How much will it cost: About $600,000

How is it being funded: The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs awarded a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to The Social. The rest has been generated through benefits and fundraisers by the organization.

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Raise the Roof benefit

What: A fundraiser for The Social of Greenwood. Proceeds will go directly to the organization’s building project.

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 4

Where: The Barn at Bay Horse Inn, 1468 Stones Crossing Road, Greenwood

What will be included: The evening will feature comedy by Dave Dugan, as well as dinner and drinks, a silent auction and purse BINGO.

Tickets: $45 for members of The Social, $60 for others.

Information: or 317-882-4810.