New Park Vista Center to Bring World to Residents

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — For residents at Park Vista Retirement Community, the world is getting a little smaller. Next year, with the opening of the Mahoning Valley Lifelong Learning Institute, they’ll have access to museums, lectures, historic sites and classrooms from across the country and around the world.

“We tell students in grade school, high school and college that learning never stops,” Mayor John McNally said at the center’s groundbreaking Thursday morning. “The Lifelong Learning Institute illustrates that no matter your age, there’s always something to learn.”

Fundraising for the $1 million Gelhaar Center – named for Charlotte Gelhaar, a member of the Community Leadership Committee before she died in 2014 – began six years ago and included a $400,000 endowment from three donors, according to Brian Kolenich, Park Vista executive director.

The center will be the institute’s permanent home.

“It’s a compliment to the many services we offer here at Park Vista and to the Youngstown area. We’re much more than a retirement community,” he said. “There will be programs that reach out to older adults throughout the Valley. The Lifelong Learning Institute offers some great opportunities that won’t be available in other places in the Valley.”

With donations from families, including current residents, there will be four lecture circuits presented at the Institute: religion and spirituality, arts and culture, history and political science, and wellness and rehabilitation.

For several years, Park Vista has taken residents to the Chautauqua Institution in western New York for lectures and events. But, Kolenich saw that some of the residents who went on the trips could no longer go because of either seeing and hearing disabilities or the length of trip.

“They enjoyed it, but we saw the gap here locally. There were some that couldn’t travel any more, which sparked the vision to bring it to Youngstown,” he explained.

Now, lectures and museum programs will be simulcasted from around the world to the Gelhaar Center.

A major part of the project is to also make the series accessible to resident with sight and hearing disabilities. As part of a lecture service – Kolenich said Park Vista was accepted as one of the 400 Rhodes Scholar Lifelong Learning Institutes globally – the Gelhaar Center will have headsets available with audio feeds linked directly to the speaker’s microphone.

“It’s much more accessible and a wonderful opportunity,” said Marice Sayhoun, director of the local institute. “People don’t have to drive for hours to see the programs that are put on. They can come here instead and get the exact same thing.”

Gelhaar was one of the first people who heard about the idea for the Lifelong Learning Institute at Park Vista, Kolenich said, and she loved the idea instantly.

“I have to look at this place through the eyes of Mother. Not only did she believe in the mission or Park Vista, but also the greater mission of learning in the city,” her son, Peter Gelhaar, said. “She believed that learning could bring people from all over into one place and help reinvigorate the city.”

Although she died during the planning stages of the institute, all who spoke at the groundbreaking said this is her legacy.

“She was excited and gave great feedback. It’s an absolute delight that we can create this legacy for her on our campus and in the Valley,” Kolenich said.

In addition to the major lectures, the center will also have guest speakers from Fellows Riverside Garden, Mahoning Valley Historical Center and the Butler Institute of American Art, Sayhoun said. Events will be open to all Park Vista residents and Kolenich said the community Park Vista serves – those over the age of 55 in the Valley – are invited to come to events.

The new structure, added on to the South Tower, will also have an outdoor patio and small sculpture garden.

“I go around the country and when I bring up Youngstown, everyone knows Park Vista,” said Dan O’Connor, chief operating officer of Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, which owns and operates the retirement community. “There is a tremendous heritage here and everyone is part of it, from the residents here to people from the community coming on the campus. There’s a quality of life here. Truly, a gem of a place.”

Pictured: Breaking ground for the new Gelhaar Center are Dan O’Connorr, Joanna Forbes, Marise Sahyoun, Brian Kolenich, Peter Gelhaar, Lori Shandor, Youngstown Mayor John McNally and Rev. Rick Mager.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.