Hayden Village Center holds grand opening

Published 7:18 pm Friday, June 3, 2022

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Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia commemorated its 50th anniversary by celebrating the grand opening of the Hayden Village Center on Thursday, May 26, in Franklin with a large crowd in attendance.

The facility at 680 Oak St. that had once been Hayden High School has been renovated into the Hayden Village Center, which features 28 affordable apartments for seniors, a medical clinic, the I-Ride Transportation hub, a community center, a food pantry and a community garden.

The high school, and now the village center, are named after Della Irving Hayden, who lived from 1855-1924 and created a legacy promoting racial equity, commitment to education, perseverance and giving back.

“This is a thrilling day for us on multiple counts,” Senior Services CEO Steve Zollos said Thursday. “It is our 50th anniversary celebration along with our Hayden Village Center grand opening.”

He later noted that “so many people, so many organizations throughout the 50 years and through the renovation of the Hayden Village Center had to come together to make a dream like this come true.”

Kathy McVey, board president for Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, highlighted the impact that SSSEVA has had in its 50 years of service.

“Senior Services has impacted thousands and thousands of adults, making their lives happier and healthier,” she said. “We’ve grown in such a variety of ways that you can see in real time…”

She noted that the impact “really takes a community, and it takes teamwork,” adding that the team helping make the Hayden Village Center possible included cities, counties, foundations and like-minded organizations.

McVey spotlighted key people present for the grand opening event, including the representatives of federal elected officials Rep. Bobby Scott and Sen. Mark R. Warner.

Speaking next was Franklin Mayor Frank M. Rabil, who said, “On behalf of the city of Franklin, I welcome you, and not only do I welcome you, I congratulate Senior Services on this marvelous facility, and not only what they have done with this facility but what they have done throughout our community over the years. We were one of the initial members back in ’72, and when we think about everything that’s gone on, it has really been a godsend to the city of Franklin, as well as a tremendous community asset.”

Focusing on the renovated facility, Rabil said, “What a tribute to Ms. Hayden that this building has come to what it is today. Without the tenacity of John Skirven, this would not be a reality.”

Rabil encouraged everyone in attendance to take one of the Hayden Village Center tours that were going to be offered later in the day.

Skirven, former SSSEVA CEO, spoke next, introduced by Zollos as the real visionary for Hayden Village Center. Skirven deflected the praise that both Rabil and Zollos gave him.

“This marvelous, marvelous legacy of Della Hayden is not because of my vision,” he said. “It’s really, truly because of the alumni’s vision that kept this legacy of education and advancement so that people could prosper and live in communities.”

Skirven said that “because it really does take a village, it’s my job to recognize all of the people over the last 50 years that have made Senior Services what it is today.”

He led everyone in attendance in a series of one-clap recognitions, mentioning federal, state and local officials, organizations providing financial support, community partners, and he made a special point to again recognize the Hayden High School alumni, some of whom were present for the event.

“Hayden alums, this is your house now,” he said.

Zollos read a letter of recognition from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and Erin Carter, a representative of Warner’s office, read a letter from the senator.

State Sen. Jen Kiggans, who volunteers with SSSEVA, offered remarks next, followed by Cynthia Walloe, the president of Hayden Alumni Association and a member of the school’s class of 1970.

“Not only am I a former student at Hayden but also an active participant in some of the programs here at the Hayden Village,” Walloe said. “Every Tuesday and Thursday I am here, exercising.”

Walloe shared details about who Della Hayden was.

“Ms. Della Hayden devoted herself to the Franklin and Southampton County community,” Walloe said. “She opened doors for African American boys and girls that led to educational achievements and higher standards. Many of these former students are doctors, lawyers, educators and productive citizens all over the United States and other countries.

“It has been nearly 100 years since her death, and even now there are still people in this room, me included, who are directly impacted by her,” Walloe continued. 

“We look forward to celebrating the legacy of both Della Hayden and Senior Services for many years to come,” she said in conclusion.

Robin Cooke, president of TowneBank Portsmouth and Suffolk, spoke next on behalf of TowneBank, which helped make the grand opening possible.

Speaking of the center, she said, “This provides affordable housing for seniors and serves as a hub for other services. We’re also commemorating a remarkable life of Della Hayden, an educator who worked tirelessly to teach thousands of young people in Franklin and Southampton County.

“The high school named in her honor, which has been renovated, has become a wonderful facility and community asset. The garden, which is in the atrium, is a fitting tribute to her legacy.”