Over 100 seniors partied on Candler Road May 3, dancing and cheering in the midday sun to a live DJ set and a Little Richard impersonator before savoring a buffet lunch.
Singing sensation Millie Jackson, 73, was among the crowd gathered under a marquee in the Candler Plaza parking lot for the grand reopening of the JenCare Senior Medical Center.
“It’s fabulous,” Jackson said of the facility.
Together with elected county officials and medical professionals, the seniors celebrated JenCare’s fifth year in South DeKalb with a ceremonial ribbon cutting, to officially open the remodeled center and its expanded services.
“It’s all about you,” center general manager Tyrone Cox told the seniors. “It’s all about you telling your friends and family members that they don’t have to travel all across metro Atlanta to get outstanding care. We don’t go and build nice fancy buildings in Buckhead, we come right to where the need is, right here on Candler Road.”
JenCare has five centers in the metro Atlanta area, including others in West End, East Point, North Druid Hills and Morrow.
It is planning to add a sixth center in Stone Mountain next year.
"We’re almost at the closing stage, we’ve identified a property, and we hope to have that facility scheduled for construction in early 2019,” said Carmalitha Gumbs, who looks after cultural community affairs for JenCare in Georgia.
Gumbs said the 12,000-square-foot Candler Plaza facility is the largest of the five JenCare centers in the metro Atlanta area, which together have over 6,000 members.
At the South DeKalb center's reopening, Little Richard impersonator Brent Star, of Midtown, entertained the crowd along with a fitness instructor and the Silver Classix Crew – Atlanta’s official senior’s dance team.
The five Classix Crew dancers, aged between 55 and 67, roused the seniors to their feet with two choreographed hip-hop routines that included twerking and the splits.
Seniors participating in the festivities also got to spin a winning wheel for prizes including t-shirts, medicine bags and pill boxes, and don fancy dress hats while posing for photographs in front of a golden screen.
Juanita Carr, who has lived near Candler Rd for over 40 years, said she visits JenCare twice a week if she can.
“Everybody’s so nice and so wonderful,” she said. “They really take care of you."
Carr, who has been a JenCare member for over four years, said the South DeKalb facility offers much more to seniors than just medical care, including birthday clubs, arts and crafts, and exercise space and equipment.
“It’s the best thing that could have happened to Candler Rd,” she said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
Mark Van Wagenen, center manager, said the recent remodeling was needed to accommodate growing demand for services.
“We’ve doubled in size,” he said.
A tai chi room, used for all sorts of health and wellness activities, has been added. The reception and waiting area has also been remodeled for a more homely, living room feel.
“You might walk in and see seniors just hanging out and playing cards while waiting for their doctor, or you may find jazz playing in the lobby,” Gumbs said.
The South DeKalb center has also boosted its transportation service for patients.
It has 20 exam rooms, an on-site laboratory, a pharmacy and dentist, as well as acupuncture and podiatry services.
Doctors are experts in diabetes, hypertension, and other illnesses that impact seniors.
Commissioner Larry Johnson, who represents District 3 where JenCare’s South DeKalb center is located, said the surrounding neighborhood is undergoing a revival.
“The renaissance is continuing on Candler Road,” he said. “We’ve got a brand new library, a new senior center, and a $25 million housing development for seniors being built right here on Candler Rd, the gateway to South DeKalb.”
Together with District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, he presented JenCare with a proclamation on behalf of DeKalb County, formally recognizing its “outstanding dedication and service to humanity in general and DeKalb County in particular.”
“This is your day today,” Johnson said. “I applaud JenCare for five years of community-oriented primary care.”
Davis Johnson, who said she would receive her Medicare card next month as a senior, urged those gathered for the reopening to reach out to JenCare.
“When you’re feeling low at any time, and you’re burdened, and you just don’t know what to do, just call Tyrone and he’ll make it good,” she said.
Prior to the center’s first opening in September 2013, seniors in South DeKalb were starved for a medical practice focused solely on them.
The Candler Plaza facility was the first JenCare center to open in DeKalb, catering to low-to-moderate income adults on Medicare.
In total, JenCare has 26 centers in Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and Virginia.
Members get medical, dental and specialist treatment under one roof and transportation to and from appointments if they live within six miles of a clinic.