2018-02-08 / Front Page

Senior Center is more than four walls; family, unity, fellowship are at its core

news editor

Mary L. Jones (left) shares a few laughs with her friends at the Lincoln County Senior Center, as she and the rest of her group waits on the edge of their seats for the next bingo number to be called. Mary L. Jones (left) shares a few laughs with her friends at the Lincoln County Senior Center, as she and the rest of her group waits on the edge of their seats for the next bingo number to be called. Barely a breath was breathed throughout the collection of huddled figures that sat staggered about six circular tables erected on a shiny, checkered tiling. Steely looks and silent hands steadily shifted over the bright green cards, ticking off one number after another at the director’s announcement of the next sifting.

“O 22,” she spouted. “O 22.”

In this moment, they are both friends and rivals, lying in wait for the winning call. This is it, one more number, and “Bingo!”

The shout of victory reverberated around the quiet room, though quickly accompanied by a trail of laughter from the rest of the group at their near-win.

It’s daily interactions like these that leave a feeling of family in the atmo­sphere of the Lincoln County Senior Center, as both familiar and new faces have found that fellowship and a sense of camaraderie are what make the facil­ity feel like home.

Now under the direction of Nancy Blount, the center has a new focus. Blount believes that the entity is meant to provide more than just a space for the community’s elderly population to receive a warm meal and to enjoy a game or two or bingo – even though those are both crowd favorites – but that the real focus should be on provid­ing them with a place that attends to their needs, while having a little fun along the way.

“I love it. They are so much fun to be around, and it’s such a blessing to have the opportunity to work with them,” Blount said. “This isn’t about me, but it’s about them and what they want.”

Blount, who was recently appointed to the position of senior center and transit director, outlined the new direc­tion that she’s carved out for the entity, which focuses on meeting not only the seniors’ needs, but also weighs greatly on activities and outings in which the group has expressed interest.

“It’s still the status-quo, we’re just enhancing the programs that we al­ready have in place here,” she said.

Currently, alongside bingo, the seniors enjoy exercise classes and playing other types of games like cards and corn hole, and there is a puzzle and board game table. However, Blount is now trying to organize regular arts and crafts activities, as well as setting up a quilting frame.

While the Senior Center has en­joyed guest speakers and performers throughout the years, Blount is still encouraging even more to visit, to perform, to share stories, and to share their personal testimonies in order to encourage members.

Efforts are also being made to organize shopping trips and visits to the movie theaters in Augusta, and further down the road Blount would like to help transport the group to Helen and even take them on a cruise if it’s feasible.

In addition, she is trying to aid the members who are on dialysis by trans­porting them to their scheduled weekly appointments.

Blount expressed that the seniors also want to have a movie day at the center once a month, and that she is trying to work with the Lincoln County Library to set up an in-house library at the senior center.

Books, DVDs, board games, and more are currently being accepted as donations for the center.

“If anyone wants a tax write-off, they can make a monetary donation to the center, or really I encourage them to just stop by and see what the seniors might need and what they could do­nate,” Blount said.

Having been challenged by the county commission to do something special with the Senior Center, Blount has made it her mission to put the se­niors needs and wishes first. In future, she will begin searching for grants to help fund the entity and its hoped-for endeavors.

“We want them to be happy, to have a good time, and to want to come here,” she said.

While the new additions to a typical day at the Senior Center, alongside the revamping of the old staples, have been embraced with open arms by members, there’s still more involved that keeps them coming back to the facility week to week.

“I look forward to coming up here every day. It just perks me up, it really does liven me up, and it’s the company that does that,” Mamie Tate said.

Her bingo companion, Mary L. Jones concurred, “I enjoy the fellow­ship and experience with everyone.”

Even the Senior Center’s kitchen staff and volunteers agreed that the camaraderie and connection is what has kept them serving these particular members of the community for years.

“I don’t know how many meals I’ve served since ’95, but I’ve seen my mother, my father, and my others who attended go on, but I do enjoy the fellowship,” Claudine Williams said. “We’ve shared a lot of good and happy times, and even some bad and sad times, but we made it through it all.”

Cathy Harris, employed since 1988, agreed, adding, “I love serving our senior citizens, they are truly and in­spiration to me, and out of my 29 years here I’ve seen a lot of people pass on. It’s been a good place to come to.

“Our new director is doing a tre­mendous job. I commend her for doing really well, and I think the program is going to enlarge itself because of her,” Harris said, to which other staff mem­bers and the senior citizens themselves also noted that they are both thankful and believe in the work that Blount is doing.

The revitalization of the Senior Center is a continuous process – even a few new members have joined within the past few weeks – but regardless, the ties of family and friendship are still considered the core of what has always made the entity thrive.

Willie May Elam, a long-time member, attested to this, and even chuckled, “I like to come up here and run my mouth.” Of course, that type of light-heartedness is a shared sentiment between most on-goers of the center.

Because whether it’s time spent “sittin’ a spell,” vying for the next “Bingo!” or simply settling down to watch a movie and eat lunch together, one thing is for certain – fellowship is the key to the Senior Center’s suc­cess, and seems to be unanimously sought after.

You see, Lincoln County’s revered members of the community have dis­covered that between themselves, the volunteers, and the staff at the Senior Center, they have created a place that is much more than just four walls in which to sit and pass a few hours, but that it’s the feeling of family, of unity, and of great care for one another that has really resonated most, and deeply at that.

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