HUDSON — Fifteen years ago, selectman Roger Coutu had just recently moved to Hudson when he bought a hot dog from Lucille Boucher outside the local Sam’s Club store.
After hearing from Boucher, now the president of the Hudson Council on Aging, about the local seniors’ longtime efforts to build a senior center in town, Coutu reached into his wallet and dropped a $20 bill into the collection jar.
Moments before helping to cut the ribbon on the new senior center and community television studio on Saturday afternoon, Coutu handed over another $20 bill.
“This time, it’s for my membership fee,” he said with a grin.
About 200 people attended the grand opening of North Barn, located at 19 Kimball Hill Road. Built to resemble a historic, red barn on the former Benson’s Wild Animal Farm property, now Benson Park.
The upstairs portion of the building houses the new senior center, while the downstairs portion is the new home of Hudson Community Television.
The town’s senior population has been working for over two decades to build a gathering place where those of a certain age can stop by for a bingo game, a line-dancing class or a hot lunch.
Fundraising efforts began in March 1992, according to Boucher.
“That’s 22 years, two months and 12 days,” she said, noting that the day’s celebration was somewhat bittersweet since quite a few of the project’s supporters didn’t live to see the center open.
“I’m sure they’re looking down on us today and they’re saying, ‘it’s about time’,” said Boucher.
Senior Affairs Committee chair Steve Porter said the new building represents hours of hard work from residents and board members past and present.
“This center has great potential for this community,” Porter said. “It’s really about creating a legacy and I think that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
Cable Utility Committee chair Mike O’Keefe said the downstairs television studio would be “a place where everyday citizens can share information and ideas.”
“My hope is we can even encourage some of our seniors to venture downstairs,” O’Keefe said. “Maybe some of you could produce a show about issues facing senior citizens, or maybe you’d like to share some of your rich life experiences.”
State representative and former selectman Shawn Jasper said programs for seniors were previously held at the local community center but the building “wasn’t the best fit for them.”
“Now we have this bright, new place in the center of town,” Jasper said. “On a nice day, people can get out and enjoy the park next door. They can remember what was once here.”
Town officials revealed plans to build the senior center/cable studio in late 2011, setting their sights on the two-acre parcel near the entrance of Benson Park. The town of Hudson purchased the 166-acre, former zoo property from the state in 2008 and the site is now used as a public park.
Voters at the March 2013 town meeting approved an article allowing funds to be placed in a special reserve fund to be used for the facility’s construction, in conjunction with the funds raised by citizens over the years.