Asian community center moving to bigger Naperville space
Original staff members of the Xilin Association community center in Naperville knew they were getting an odd space when they moved in.
Sixteen years later, the space is not just strangely shaped and kind of hidden in the corner of the Iroquois Center strip mall along Ogden Avenue, it's also too small for daily activities.
In 13,750 square feet, the association provides lunch and seven hours worth of care and activities for roughly 90 seniors a day. In the evenings and on weekends, the center hosts Chinese language instruction and dance classes.
But there isn't enough space for all the seniors to sit at the same time for their meal, and there aren't enough places for them to take a nap afterward. There isn't enough voltage to run more than three hot water urns for tea, and the toaster and microwave can't be used at the same time. Office spaces for 20 employees are cramped, and classrooms have to serve multiple purposes.
"Everything is a problem; that is why we decided to move," Center Director June Yang said. "Our space is very limited."
The Xilin Association is moving from one unit in Iroquois Center to another, much larger, unit totaling 21,824 square feet. Because the expansion increases the center's footprint by more than 20 percent, it needed city council review. But the council unanimously granted permission for the facility to move to Suite 610 on the northern side of the plaza.
Yang said the association is excited to seek final approval of blueprints and begin a construction and moving process that likely will take four or five months.
Plans for the new space call for two large rooms for seniors to sit, eat or gather; two smaller rooms for activities such as table tennis, dance or morning exercise; a classroom, a music room, an English-as-a-second-language room, a media room for seniors to watch TV, a dance studio, a Mahjong room and a kitchen, which Yang says will have better electric capacity for more microwaves and hot water urns.
The community center is one of five for the Xilin Association, which also has sites in Arlington Heights, Elgin and Chicago's Chinatown and Pilsen neighborhoods. The nonprofit association of multicultural Asian centers focus on youth education, performing arts, community health and adult day care.
Seniors who attend the Naperville day care are primarily of Chinese descent although there are also some Korean, Taiwanese and Indian participants.
Jack Hu, 80, moved from Taiwan to Naperville in 1987 and now spends some of his days at the Xilin Association.
"I paint, play tennis, listen to music. This is Chinese music," Hu says, motioning to his boom box as it plays at a low level. "Piano is my favorite." Some of Hu's paintings decorate the walls of the space the association has occupied since late 2002. There are watercolors of flowers or outdoor scenes as well as realistic pencil sketches of the president and first lady.
Other seniors in the center read newspapers, talk, take naps or play games.
"We go through cards like crazy," Yang said.
Day care staff members pick up most seniors from their homes and drive them back each day on a shuttle. Three days a week, the shuttle also crosses one strip mall parking lot to another so the seniors can go shopping at H Mart, a Korean grocer in the nearby Ogden Mall.
The expansion plans will allow the center to continue serving seniors and allow more participants as the population ages.
"If not for this place," Yang said, "they'd feel so lonely."