By AUTUMN NEAL
With this special summer series coming to a close and the week’s activities previewed previously, the Gladys L. Lemmons Senior Community Center also offers events and opportunities throughout the year for local senior citizens.
Besides the myriad of classes, games, and groups that the Center promotes on a weekly basis, there are some monthly and annual chances for fun.
“Another thing that we’ve done here a lot is taking trips,” Billie Benedix informed. “Right now there’s two: one’s getting ready to go to Pennsylvania and another one is going to New Orleans.”
Though Benedix won’t be attending these next trips, she’s been on a lot of the past excursions. In fact, by the front desk there’s a huge collage of group pictures from past trips. She pointed out past destinations like Mount Rushmore and a cruise many of the seniors had taken together.
“It’s nice because we don’t have to worry about driving and a lot of the seniors don’t drive anymore,” she added. “We always have a guide so we can see the highlights.”
Jeanie Cavanaugh said that when she and her group went to New Mexico, they toured Indian reservations, went downtown, and saw Mesa Verde.
A few of the trips are by bus and Cavanaugh explained that most of the time the seniors would just play games until they got to their destination. Luckily, most of the trips planned for the future involve boarding a plane rather than a bus, though a lot can be said for a road trip.
The city’s Recreation Coordinator, Jane Finkenbine, is in charge of these nearly week long excursions. For the longer ones, she works with two different travel companies to help plan the trip – usually four to six days – but on the day-long trips, she’s normally the main one guiding the group.
Finkenbine was particularly excited for the group traveling to New Orleans.
“That’s in December and over the holidays so the French Quarter will be decorated and that will be really beautiful,” Finkenbine said.
Regularly, she’s the deciding factor in the destination. One of the upcoming trips she’s planning for the spring is going to the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, and Dollywood – places she used to visit on vacation as a little girl.
However, she reported that there are “ladies who bring me brochures all the time of places they want to go.”
Right now, there’s a large group that wants to head to Apple Valley so Finkenbine said she’d be keeping that in mind as she planned more trips.
These are some of the annual trips, but seniors have also made the rounds to more local places, sometimes spending the day in San Francisco, at the Fresno underground gardens, the Sacramento Zoo or going other places.
“I try to plan once a month just a day trip. So we went to the Duarte Poinsettia Farm and to the Fruit Yard for lunch one day,” Finkenbine explained. “We have a group going to the Gallo Center to see ‘Singin in the Rain’ in July, and we’re trying to get tickets for Blue Man Group. We have maybe a group of 15 or 16 who really enjoy that.”
Furthermore, if entertainment is what seniors are after, they truly get it every fourth Thursday when the band Tradewinds comes and plays. Finkenbine described that these were rather fun and got seniors up and dancing.
Also once a month are the famous dinners at the Senior Center, which prove to be great mixers for all the communities. While someone who is just interested in exercise classes may never cross paths with someone else who only comes for Bingo, this is their chance to get to know the other members at the Senior Center. To add extra fun, the dinners are usually themed.
June’s gathering was a Western Barbecue. Finkenbine noted that people usually dress up “with cowboy boots and our guys who play badminton on Thursday man the grill, so we end up having a big cookout.”
For the July dinner, seniors can look forward to some entertainment. The Community Band and Singing Seniors will play for the night while dinner-goers will also be treated to an ice cream social.
“The mayor and his wife serve at almost every one of our dinners,” Finkenbine shared.
That’s the other nice thing about the dinners; while the Senior Center is full of activities for local seniors from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week, events like this that are in the evening are for the whole community.
“Seniors usually bring children and grandchildren,” she continued. “We average maybe 60 to 70 people at these monthly dinners.”
Recently, the Center got the chance to recognize some of its amazing volunteers. Finkenbine reported over 65 volunteers being acknowledged at the dinner with certificates. Their volunteer of the year was Richard DeLuca, who she noted “does so much volunteering not just here at the center but all over” the community.
“It’s amazing how this place runs on volunteer power,” Finkenbine said, awed. “Not only do seniors volunteer at the center, but they also take pride in it.
A few of the ladies that man the front desk not only volunteer their time there but were more than happy to help inform this series, including Billie Benedix, Joan Taylor, and Jeanie Cavanaugh. Peggy Welch leads many of the exercise classes, and Andy Anderson created shelves that are up in the billiard room.
“Everyone feels very strongly about how this place looks and what we do. It’s not just the volunteers, it’s the members, the participants here really keep this place going,” Finkenbine concluded. “It’s an amazing place.”
For more information on class offerings, trips, and how to get involved, contact the Senior Center at (209) 845-3566.