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2014: A year of new beginnings for Alexandria Senior Center

Several activities are held regularly at the Alexandria Senior Center, such as pool games each weekday at 10 a.m. There are also card games, quilting and sewing gatherings, TOPS and Golden K meetings, computer classes, driving classes and more. (Tara Bitzan/Echo Press)

Those involved with the Alexandria Senior Center have high hopes that 2014 will be a year of promise, rebuilding and growth.

The center has experienced declining membership, programming, services and financial shortfalls the past several years.

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But a group of concerned community members has come together with the goal of turning all that around and again making the center a “home base” for senior programming throughout Douglas County.

An organizational meeting was held in December. A new board was elected and some short- and long-term planning was done. Board members include Kathryn LeBrasseur, president; Bob Hudspeth, vice president, Helen Glade, secretary; Carol Strong, treasurer; Darrell Lorsung, Juliana Slavik, Roy Wicken, Jim Jensen, Greg Odell and Joyce Martinson.

According to LeBrasseur, the board is committed to keeping the center alive and bringing it back to its status of years past by raising the necessary funds and building a program that benefits and entertains.

“It needs to serve not only the senior person, but the families who come looking for ways to enhance their parents’ lives,” she said. LeBrasseur got involved because of a firm belief that the center is an important part of the community.

“A need exists,” she said. “I saw it self-destructing, and out of heartache and concern, I got involved.”

That’s also why Darrell Lorsung joined the board. With past involvement with the Minnesota Board on Aging and at a nursing home in Walker, he hopes his knowledge can be beneficial to the center as it reorganizes.

“I care about the seniors and I want to see this thing get turned around,” he said. “A community the size of Alexandria should have an active senior center.”

Lorsung stressed that the center has no intentions of competing with other local agencies that serve the senior population.

“We’re not in competition. Instead, we can all work together to offer a lot more to the senior population,” he said.

Carol Strong returned to the Alexandria area after retiring. She has had many experiences with the center, including celebrating her mother’s 80th birthday party there.

“The center is important for socialization and it’s a great place to come together,” she said. “I couldn’t accept the fact it would be closed, and I have some skills to offer, so I got involved.” Strong serves as the board treasurer.

Marcia Gay Schmidt offered her services on a volunteer basis as the center’s interim director, saying she “wants to see the center successful.”

Among the board’s goals are increasing membership and offering more programs and services for the 50-plus population.

Because there is no permanent funding source in place, the board and interim director are volunteering their services to operate the facility.

At least one major fundraiser will be held each month to pay for heat and electricity, and efforts are under way to obtain grants and possible funding from entities such as the city of Alexandria, area townships and the United Way.

A pork chop dinner is planned for January (details on page A8) and a Valentine’s event is planned for February.

Tom Knutson of Silver Plate Catering is now renting the center’s commercial kitchen. As of January 3 he began offering catering, carry-out and home delivered meals. For information call (320) 760-4111 or e-mail callcheftom@

LeBrasseur noted that the board will be taking “baby steps” to move forward, but members are confident the center has a bright future.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

(320) 763-1211