By Kathryn LeBrasseur, Alexandria, MN

As we enter the holiday season with hearts filled with Thanksgiving and Christmas joy, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. Along with that nostalgia and memories of past seasons I am also filled with pride that my heritage is in this great community! Pride that our area has maintained its quality of life. I am not alone in this recognition. The values and accomplishments that made us an Age Friendly Community designation from AARP and our recent recognition as the Best Minnesota Town reflect this.

Six years ago, the Echo Press had an Opinion column stating a fact. The Senior Center needed a new direction. It was going to close as a center and the property be sold. Many were aghast. Our parents, the county and the senior clubs of Douglas County had built this place. It was mortgage free! It had been the hub of bingo, cards, congregate dining, crafts. Needed were nine people willing to serve on the board of directors. Thankfully we found the needed nine. This month marks the end of the six-year terms allowed by the bylaws and new leadership leads us into the future.

During the six years, great strides have been made. The congregate dining and home delivered meals program have been brought back and are expanding in service. Volunteers stepped forward and general improvements to the building’s appearance were accomplished by painting, reupholstering, etc. Debts and outstanding bills have been paid off. Several areas have been made “state-of-the-art.” This includes the meeting room with its upgraded technology and the Lorsung Art Gallery. The pool room remains supreme. Renovation of the Community Room continues to make it a viable performing center for the arts. The unseen features such as air exchanges, appliance upgrades are complete.

The center has been reestablished as a viable part of the community and has been welcomed back by the other non-profits and governmental service groups as a partner. We are part of the Chamber and the Downtowners. We, once again, house the programming of all the senior clubs of the county. Relationships with our condo partner, HRA, have been strongly reaffirmed. We are fifth in the nation for numbers completing AARP’s Driving classes and once again serve several hundred with free tax assistance.

New board members were recently elected as we start the next six-year cycle. Terms have been rotated so not all members are new. But nine members strong, this new board has new visions. Programming opportunities are endless. We have the space. We have the staff. We have the volunteers.

Many new programs are being created to fill their visions. These programs are inclusive. The center has become the focus of obtaining information regarding services for the elderly in this wonderful area. Seniors are moving here and this is a great place to get acquainted. All ethnic groups are welcome and involved.

My nostalgia is peaceful and fills me with thankfulness. It fills me with the joy of the center being a vital part of the community again. And the new year promises a wonderful future! What a six-week season to reflect on the past, be grateful for the present and plan for the future. Try it yourself!

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Kathryn LeBrasseur is a former executive director of the Alexandria Senior Center and has been involved in a variety of community organizations, many focusing on senior issues. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.