A new center for senior citizens in Fairfax County opened this week - with evidence of strong community support and with many plans for programs and expansion.

The programs are to include working with the deaf as well as senior citizens, group travel, crafts, bridge, movies, gardening and "flower arranging on a shoestring."

The center is in the Sleepy Hollow United Methodist Church, 3330 Holloman Rd., west of Seven Corflers. It is to be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Several leaders said they want the new center to grow rapidly and reach the activity level of the Senior Citizens Day Center of Arlington, which gets 1,500 to 1,700 visits per month. Legal work to incorporate is in progress, they added.

Jack Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, in a statement read for him by his administrative assistant Bob Foreman, declared the center "will be a model for other communities who really care about their aging population." He said the space is being donated by the church, rent free, for a year.

The Rev. Charles Swadley, the church pastor, was a master of ceremonies at this week's opening, attended by about 50 people. Several of those present said he has been the driving force behing the center's conception and its year of preparation.

Swadley told the seniors present, however, that the center is "for you" and will be neither run nor funded by his church. After the program, he noted that five other United Methodist churches in the area helped create the center.

He said Fairfax County has about 36,000 people above age 60.

Swadley introduced three "day-by-day workers" at the center, Vilma Fortune, Cynthia DeButts and Kitty Arone.

The center "can be a big boon to deaf people," declared Don Pettingill of the center for continuing education at Gallaudet College. He addressed the group by voice, using sign language simultaneously. The remainder of the program was reported in sign language by Mike Hartman for benefit of the half dozen deaf people present.

The Rev. Omar Fink, of the Methodist Church's Arlington district, Northern Virginia Board of Missions, gave the invocation, and later told the audience that the district will be "willing and eager" to help in the future.

Eileen Cooper, who supervises senior citizen programs for the recreation department of the Fairfax County government, reminded the seniors of the county's programs for them, including one on nutrition. She also noted that many county merchants give discounts to those 60 and over.