Friday, September 6, 2013

Lakes Region Senior Center finds interim home at Sunset Ridge - By Elizabeth Richards

In September of 2011, a regional senior center opened in the former Little Falls School. Founder Glen Lynds spearheaded the effort to create a place for seniors after the closing of Tim Horton’s in Windham. The building they ended up with was ideal in meeting the needs of area seniors, members said. But just shy of their two year anniversary, a bond passed to renovate the building, and the Lake Regions Senior Center had to vacate.

After an extensive search for a new location, the group has landed at the Sunset Ridge Golf Links on River Road in Westbrook. The new space offers a lot of windows for natural light, a beautiful view, a large room for socializing, and use of the glassed in gazebo, where the card players gathered on opening day. There is a snack bar available with coffee, tea and a variety of choices. The group is also able to bring snacks into the space. For a fee, members can also play pickleball and golf. The group does not have to worry about set up or take down, they just need to leave the room as they found it, board president Blanche Alexander said. This was a big consideration in looking for a new space, she said, because it is difficult for the members to have to set things up daily.

The rent at the new location is $200 per month, said Alexander. While this is a very reasonable cost, the group had fallen under the department of recreation while in Gorham, and was not charged rent, so fundraising efforts will be increased.

The center has held bake sales, book sales and garage sales in the past, as well as a popular monthly luncheon that draws 30-40 people. These luncheons will continue in the new space, and the price will increase slightly to help with fundraising efforts, said Alexander. Each luncheon is potluck and has some kind of theme. For the first one in the new space, scheduled for Monday, September 16th, they are keeping it simple said Alexander, and will feature appetizers rather than main dishes. The public is welcome to attend the luncheon. Financial contributions to the senior center are welcome.

Although Alexander said that the location is very nice, and the owners of Sunset Ridge have been welcoming and kind to the group, the board still hopes that they might be able to move back into the Little Falls School when renovations are complete. The central location and accessibility of the building are top reasons why that space was a great home for the center, said Alexander. “We have been so grateful to the town of Gorham for what they have done for us,” said Alexander.

Gorham Town Manager David Cole said via an email message that the town council has not yet decided what the building will be used for. Alexander’s husband, David, who is also a member of the center, spoke before the town council on Tuesday night, to let them know they had found a temporary space, and to ask the council for consideration for a room in the Little Falls building when renovations are complete. The senior center board has discontinued looking for a permanent location until they hear what the Little Falls building will be used for, though they will keep their eyes and ears open, said Alexander.

 The center fills a need for many older community members, offering a place to call their own, to come and socialize instead of sitting home alone, said Alexander. “It’s a wonderful thing to have,” she said.
Member Ethel Blake said she enjoys having a place where there are people who enjoy the same things she does. “The first time I came in to the senior group they treated me just like a long lost sister,” she said.
Board member Cheryl Robbins agreed. “We’ve become one big family. It’s someplace to go and feel comfortable and see other people happy and enjoying the comfort. A stranger doesn’t stay a stranger very long with us,” she said.

Robbins said one challenge currently is just that they aren’t fully set up yet. Supplies like games and puzzles are still in trunks and cars. The group is thankful to John Smith of Little Falls Construction for storing their beloved piano, said Alexander.

Although they’ve only occupied the new space for two days, Alexander said, “We’re being positive and hopeful for our future.”  She said they had a great turnout on their first day in the new location, and everyone seemed to enjoy the new space. On their second day, a Wednesday morning, it was slower, as it usually is, according to Alexander. A weight loss support group meets at 10 a.m, and by 9:30 a.m, more members were coming through the door. The center is drop-in, which means people can just show up when they are able. Visitors are welcome.

The senior center is open to people aged 55 and above. Activities include cards, puzzles, speakers on a variety of topics, luncheons and dinners. Their scheduled activities include cards and crafts on Tuesdays, a weight loss support group on Wednesdays, and games on Fridays, among other things. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Wednesday. Winter hours will be voted on in an upcoming board meeting.

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