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Echo Press Editorial: Show your support for the Senior Center

Exciting things are happening at the Alexandria Senior Center.

It’s beginning the New Year with a new board, new direction and a renewed interest to not just keep the center going but to make it THE gathering spot in the community for senior citizens and their families.

The new board wants the center to be a welcoming, fun place for seniors to get information, participate in programs and enjoy one another’s company. They also want local organizations to use the center for programming that focuses on seniors and their needs.

There’s no dodging the question about funding. The center faces challenges ahead to keep it fiscally afloat. That’s one of the reasons the board laid off its long-time director; the money used for Ann Esterberg’s salary will now go toward paying expenses. Public funding to support the center has also been cut (the city of Alexandria, for instance, eliminated the $10,000 it has been contributing), which means the center is on its own, financially, for the first time in many years.

Faced with this kind of challenge, a less determined group may have given up. A less involved community may have turned aside. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened.

The center’s leadership remains upbeat, focused and committed to making the center a vibrant part of the Alexandria community. It’s developed a two-pronged plan to get the center back on track.

First, it’s addressing the center’s finances by planning fundraisers, applying for grants, contacting organizations that have helped the center in the past and encouraging more seniors to join for an annual fee of just $12 or $20 per couple.

Secondly, the board is developing more programs and activities at the center that will meet the needs of the 50-plus population in the area. The goal is to make the center a “home base” of information and recreation for seniors and their families. There are things happening at the center. This month alone, there are pool games, card playing, quilting, computer classes, driving classes and more. (Residents can keep up to date on activities and the center and other senior news by reading the Echo Press’ new Senior section that debuts in today’s issue.)

To achieve their goals, the senior center board has two “secret weapons.” The first one rests within its history. The senior citizens who built the place decades ago did it through sheer determination, holding potlucks, bingo games and other fundraisers. Thanks to their efforts, there is no mortgage to pay on the facility. That kind of effort is inspiring the new board. As new board president, Kathryn LeBrasseur put it, “We can do that again!”

The second weapon is the community itself. Already, several groups have stepped up to the plate to help the center. Calvary Lutheran Church had a concert in November to raise money. The Terrific Kids program, sponsored by the Golden Kiwanis, donated items from a bake sale.

This Friday, January 10, Roy and Patty Wicken of Alexandria are putting on a benefit from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the center. They’ll be serving pork chops, mashed potatoes, corn, sherbet and coffee for $12 a person and all the money will go directly to the center. Advanced tickets of $10 are also available from board members or at the center’s reception desk. The Jefferson High School Happiness Club will also lend a hand by filling coffee cups.

It’s exciting to see so many groups helping the center get back on its feet. The community needs to keep that energy, that positive vibe, going. Join the center – as a member, as a volunteer, as a supporter. Let’s keep the center rolling full-steam ahead in 2014 and for generations to come.