Friendship Center expanding off-street parking

Car crash in August moved center director and board to action


CLINTON — The DeWitt County Friendship Center has been waiting for, literally, years now for a $50,000 grant promised by the State of Illinois.  The delay in funding also meant a delay in the project for which the money was intended.

But, the Friendship Center director and the facility’s board finally decided to take matters into their own hands.

“My car got totaled sitting right out here in front of this building,” said Friendship Center director Paula Jiles.  “That was August 25, and since then I’ve made it my mission to get parking here.”

The senior citizen’s center has only ever had a minimum of parking spaces along the eastern edge of its property.  Many relied on street-side parking when visiting the center.

Jiles said just 10 minutes separated the crash that destroyed her car from seniors arriving in about the same location to attend activities at the center.

“It was on BINGO day on a Wednesday when all of those people were walking into the building,” Jiles said.  “One of them could have been killed.”

Jiles said the Friendship Center directors were on-board with moving to build the additional parking.  She said a certificate of deposit (CD) that wasn’t earning much interest was the base for building funding to cover the project.

A couple of grants awarded to the center for general expenses added to the total, and the center also conducted some fundraisers.

“Last month at our board meeting, I had come up with a proposal, and they approved doing this,” Jiles said.  “I didn’t want to sit on the money too long, so I got on the phone and got some estimates.”

Part of the expansion is also thanks to property south of the center purchased from the United Methodist Church several years ago for $1.

The lot will add about a dozen parking spaces for the center, and visitors will be able to exit onto Adams Street.

The parking lot project will cost about $70,000.  Jiles said the center would have enough money to also replace the building’s automatic front door, which will cost about $10,000.