By Melinda Munson

Last fall, Skagway elders ceded their winter program home, Big Dippers, so that Little Dippers Learning Center could provide year-round childcare. Thanks in part to a $75,000 donation from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, seniors will now have a permanent location.

The municipality will lease the former You Say Tomato building for $3,000 per month, with a three-year agreement. The owners will be responsible for maintenance and ADA compliance.

“…it is a very generous donation. So, thank you very much Royal Caribbean,” said Assemblymember Reba Hylton who sponsored Resolution 23-09R.

“It’s been a need for many years that the seniors have their own designated spot to meet so they don’t have to keep moving their things on a seasonal basis, which has been the current situation, for actually quite a while now,” Hylton said.

According to Hylton, $50,000 of the donation will go towards the lease and “outfitting the property on 21st” including “couches, tables, appliances and electronics.”

The remaining $25,000 will fund a contracted senior coordinator, whose job is yet to be defined.

“…Deputy Manager Deach and I will work on that scope of work and then bring that back to civic affairs to fine tune and get more input from fellow assembly members,” Hylton said. 

Assemblymember Orion Hanson gave some history about Skagway and the desire for a senior center.

“I’ll point out that I was elected to the assembly in 2016,” Hanson said. “At the same time, a ballot passed by three or four votes to build a senior center for $7 million with seven apartments. And that has been a quagmire to this day. So, this is a path forward to get this done. And I think it’s long overdue.”

Cremata congratulated Hylton and Assemblymember Deb Potter 

“…with so many other high profile items on a very large agenda, it can easily get lost, especially with members of the public, that a lot of work went into this. I can appreciate the amount of work you put into it, Assemblyperson Hylton and Assemblyperson Potter. I know we’ve had a lot of back and forth discussion about it, and also staff.”

While the You Say Building does have a commercial kitchen, the senior lunch program, sponsored by Catholic Community Service, remains separate from the senior center and hosts in-person lunches at Skagway First Presbyterian Church. The lunch program currently has vacancies for chef manager and support staff.