For years, the city of Chattanooga has recognized employees for their dedicated service toward creating a better city for residents, but for this year, one man has reached a milestone that helped him remember why he’s poured so much into this community. 

Jerome Martin is the Facility Manager for the Eastgate Senior Center and has been serving in community centers for over 30 years. A native of Memphis, TN, Martin grew up knowing his passion was to help others. He served in the military before moving to Chattanooga in 1972, where he set his sights on finding a career that involved making a difference in the lives of the youth. At the beginning of his career with the city, he spent 19 years at Shepherd Community Center and six years at North Chattanooga Community Center, creating youth programming and activities. After several years of focusing on the youth, Martin was promoted to Manager at Eastgate Senior Center. 

“Jerome has become an excellent mentor with his leadership skills and the direction of how he operates to create programming around seniors,” stated Angela Evans, Community Center Specialist for Eastgate Senior Center. 

Evans works alongside Martin to develop programming and daily activities for seniors who attend the center. As the Facility Manager, Martin wanted to take senior programming to the next level. Over time, Martin has built a programmatic structure that has given seniors a holistic experience at the center. Along with social activities, seniors can expect ways to receive economic resources, healthy living, and mental exercises daily. 

“I have seniors tell me every day they don’t know what they would do if there were no senior center,” stated Martin. “Many of them are alone and depend on the center, and that’s why it’s important to me to ensure we enhance their quality of life each day.” 

Martin explains that the senior population is rapidly increasing daily and feels that its important to have an environment with dedicated programming for seniors to utilize in the city. As he reflects on his age, considering himself a senior, he believes his experience serves him best to provide for the needs of seniors. Over the years, attendees of the center couldn’t agree more. 

Seniors like Pauline Hall, who they call the matriarch of Eastgate Senior Center, have been attending for over 20 years. Hall sees the center as a vital part of her life. 

“I love all the activities,” stated Hall. “I love all the people; I love all the programs. It’s my home away from home because I’m a widow, and I come out here to have someone to socialize with.”

New programs are always being added to the list of senior activities at the center, like the “Author’s Corner.” This program allows seniors to meet with local authors and discuss their books. As the Eastgate Senior Center closes its doors, Martin looks forward to transitioning all his programming to the Glenwood Community Center as the Facility Manager.  

“I believe in making the best out of what you have, no matter where you may be,” stated Martin. “Wherever you are, you always have an opportunity to build, to bring creativity, and make it fit as best as you can.”

The Eastgate Senior Center frequently hosts events and celebrations for seniors throughout the year, and in true fashion, for the last week of operations, seniors celebrated closing its doors with dance, food, laughter, and love. Martin believes that’s what the senior community needs. 

“We want to make life better for the senior community because that’s what’s truly important,” stated Martin.

Martin and his staff have curated programming for Glenwood that will continue to enhance the lifestyles of seniors who walk through his door. Glenwood Community Center will begin its dedicated senior hours on Friday, December 1st, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.