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by Sharon Gittleman
Ferndale- Walk by the new Affirmations Community Center on an average weekday afternoon, glance inside and you’ll see crowds of people drinking coffee, catching up on their computer browsing, chatting in the art gallery and hurrying to their classes.
Even before the building’s official grand opening ribbon cutting celebration during Motor City Pride on Sunday, the community had embraced their new center.
David Lewandowski stood inside the Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery and waited for the ceremony to begin. He wasn’t alone.
Dozens of visitors stopped by for the event. Staff members handed out scissors to the crowd before the ribbon cutting began.
“I’m looking forward to finding a group where I fit in,” said Lewandowski. “That’s why I’m here.”
He’d seen the old center across the street in years past but walked on by. Why did he decide to give the new building a closer look?
“I think it’s the beautiful design of the gallery,” he said “It really makes Ferndale look cool.”
For partners Kathi Kennedy and Beverly Dale, the grand opening event was just one of several visits they’d made to the center since it unofficially started up earlier this year.
“It’s beautiful, said Kennedy. “They offer programs for all ages and interests. Everybody’s friendly.”
The ballroom dance classes are one of Dale’s favorite center activities.
“They have so much to offer, whether you’re single, partnered, old or young,” she said.
Affirmations Board Member Arianna Morales said the new structure was an “amazing improvement,” over the old building.
“I think this is a big achievement,” she said.
Community leaders from around the area gathered for the event.
Ferndale Mayor Robert Porter said the building would act as an anchor for the community and shows how proud his city is to maintain a diverse population.
“Its wonderful,” he said. “People who don’t have a computer can have access to them and other programming – as well as a classy coffee shop.”
Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison attended the event.
“I’d like to see something like this everywhere its needed,” he said.
Affirmations Executive Director Leslie Thompson spoke to the gathering.
The crowd braved a rainstorm to watch the ceremony held just outside the front door of the center.
At the old building, classes and support groups drew an average of 500 people a week, she said. At the new structure, 1,106 visitors stopped by on average each week in April.
“This is a community center in every aspect of the word,” she said, as she invited onlookers to cut a wide red ribbon volunteers held as they stood on the
sidewalk by the entry.
Architect Robert Ziegelman,Aeos face glowed with pride as he surveyed the crowd admiring the building he designed.
“It was a pleasure working with Affirmations,” said Ziegelman, with the firm Luckenbach Ziegelman.
Allan Gilmour and Eric Jirgens were surrounded by well-wishers congratulating them for the building they helped fund with a $1 million dollar gift and which bares their name.
“I feel amazing, excited and proud,” said Gilmour.
Jirgens said he’d gone to Affirmations when there was just one room used for meetings.
“It’s emotional,” said Jirgens.