Big Plans for Downtown’s Old State Theater

Old State Theater

By Shiela K. Haynes

Winnsboro will soon have a special gathering spot for our senior citizens as well as an adult day care facility that offers socialization opportunities for the elderly while also providing respite for their caregivers.

Dr. Jared and Dawn Petty moved to Winnsboro with their four children in 2009 when the good doctor took a position as a hospitalist at our local hospital while also opening a traditional internal medicine practice in town. In July 2015, the Pettys opened the current clinic on Broadway and Dr. Petty stepped away from the hospital position to focus full time on his growing medical practice.

The Pettys recently purchased the old State Theater building downtown and renovations are well underway on the 100-year-old structure. The building began as the Amusu Theater and was later renamed the State Theater. More recently, it has housed a dry cleaner, restaurants, and a chocolate shop, but has been vacant for five or six years.

A sampling of the work that has been done includes a new roof, a reconstructed façade, new HVAC, new flooring, and reconfiguring an old office space to create an ADA-compliant bathroom complete with a changing table that accommodates adults.

Dr. Petty said the concept of providing services to our senior citizens began to take shape several years ago and blossomed with the Covid pandemic.

He said his inspiration developed out of the circumstances of providing care for a quadriplegic patient who required monthly office visits. After working through the obstacles, the medical practice began providing home visits for this patient in October 2019. It was a great success.

“Then Covid hit, and it just blew up. Everyone wanted to be home, and we didn’t want people in the office,” said Dr. Petty.

“We saw first-hand where these sweet little old ladies were stuck in their house, totally isolated. The only people who came to them were a home-health nurse and our nurse practitioner who did home visits. Sometimes they would have families, but sometimes they wouldn’t. They were not able to socialize. There was a two-pronged approach — what could we do to help them socialize? And the other was, what could we do to provide more aid?”

The home visits program continued to expand. Several home-visit nurse practitioners now make regular calls on patients with a need for this style of care. The impact made by this service pushed the Pettys to move forward to something more. They could see the needs in this community, and they began to look for ways to fill a void.

Since the Winnsboro Senior Center was damaged by fire two years ago, there has not been any movement on replacing the facility or developing an alternative gathering place for local seniors.

The plan is to provide an adult day care facility plus a senior center in the renovated downtown space. The facility will operate as an adult day care two days a week from early morning until early evening and would be staffed by aides who would be responsible for three or four seniors each. This initial schedule can be expanded as the need arises.

“There is guilt associated with leaving mom and dad. What if you could drop them off where there is someone with a bit of medical knowledge, someone who can keep them safe and happy,” said Dr. Petty.

In addition to the day care, there will be an area that serves as a hub for seniors where they can meet for lunch, play games, and otherwise socialize. The Pettys plan to work with entities in the community (such as churches and businesses) to provide lunches and set up activities for those over age 65.

Dawn said she anticipates the senior center would be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on days when the day care is operating.

Also in development is an in-home sitting service that will be created apart from the downtown facility.

Plans include an assist to another victim of the senior center fire, the Wood County Meals on Wheels. While the program has continued to serve and area churches have opened their doors to meet distribution needs, Director Brenda Johnson has had to office out of her home. The Pettys plan includes office space for this necessary program.

A soft opening in mid-summer can be expected. Completing the renovations, training staff, and talking to families to see what services should be incorporated into the plan are all in progress.

At this point, the Pettys are providing 100 percent of the funding, but they are looking into grant opportunities. This is a work of the heart for them.

“When we started going to people’s homes, we saw that there was too much sadness and that is something we could fix,” said Dawn.

She said the medical portion took just a few minutes, but then the patients wanted to visit.

“That’s the kind of relationship we want with people. Not just, here’s your prescription, go home and if you don’t feel better in two weeks, come back. But having that relationship as a human.”