From the outside looking in, the Sequim Senior Activity Center already looks like it has a party going on. During a usual week, the center hosts more than 30 events, from bingo to cards to dominoes to Zumba.
Staff and volunteers are opening up the party on Thursday, May 26, to honor the 40th anniversary of the center. From 1-4 p.m. many of the ongoing groups hold demonstrations, live music and offer free information and finger food.
Michael Smith, center executive director, said in his six years the center has grown in number of activities and hours for them.
“There’s more of a buzz on the senior center now,” Smith said. “There’s also more for people in their 50s and 60s and more opportunities to volunteer. Without increasing payroll, we’ve increased output.”
The center has about 1,450 members with about 10 percent volunteering regularly as instructors, cleaning the facility, working the front office, organizing the annual benefit sale and much more.
“You can’t help but be involved in so many things,” said instructor Bobbie Dahm.
She started weekly Scrabble games at the center in 2002 and recently started leading PAN, a card game.
Both groups have their faithful followers, including a Scrabble enthusiast who travels once a month from Joyce.
Yoga remains a popular activity, especially for instructor Leslie Menia, who said she’s been teaching yoga for close to 20 years at the center. Her classes are so popular she runs three yoga courses, along with chair exercises, for those who can’t get on the ground, and a knitting class.
Menia said she’s not compensated for her work but she has a personal incentive.
“It keeps me moving,” she said. “When I get sick, I knew I always had to come back.”
Many members make a few trips a week to the center like Marilyn Zimmerman. She’s been a member at least 10 years to make crafts, crochet and play bingo while giving back by cleaning the kitchen and setting up for the benefit sale.
“It means a place to come,” Zimmerman said about the center’s impact. “It helps other seniors keep occupied. I’ve met a lot of friends and lots of different people here.”
She has a good time with about 20 people at Thursday bingo. Buy-in is 50 cents a card and the most she’s won is $4.25 but the amount you win depends on participation and who else wins. Zimmerman finds it to be more about the fun anyway.
Getting involved remains a theme at the center since it started in May 1971. A group of volunteer senior citizens formed the center with the hope of making life better for other seniors. They started with board games in the Sequim Presbyterian Church’s basement before moving to an old house then buying the old Seventh-day Adventist Church, which only had one room for activities.
Center staff began looking for a new site in 1989 due to its growth. They found their current building at 921 E. Hammond St. and moved in Aug. 31, 1992.
Smith said the center has become even busier and more full.
“It’s getting harder to fit people in the same facility without walking through other activities,” he said.
The past year has become even more active for the center. The City of Sequim began partnering again with the center by contracting $10,000 to give out free $35 memberships to qualifying, low-income seniors for the program Healthy Aging for All.
Other groups support the cause as well: The Mary P. Doiciani Halloran Foundation gave $10,000, the Glaser Foundation $5,000 and the Albert Haller Foundation $2,000.
Smith said they are working on an activity buck system to help low-income individuals more and new qualifying members from the past year.
Memberships continue to offer discounts on various services such as senior center trips, foot care, activities and events.
Last May, Smith announc-ed they secured 4.48 acres of land at the intersection of Lofgrin Road and Washington Harbor Loop for a new center. A donation by center lifetime member R. Leo Shipley in June gave $218,542.81 to the center to secure the land.
Smith said members are eager for a new building with more space and bigger classrooms and they are looking for the capital campaign to pick up again.
“Sequim needs a top-notch facility because everyone could benefit,” Smith said.
The party on Thursday is free and open to the public. Membership and activity applications are available at the office.
Donations for the center’s Benefit Sale may be made 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. The sale runs in the QFC Shopping Center Aug. 4-6. Check with the center on what is accepted.
The Sequim Senior Activity Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so donations are tax deductible.
Call 683-6806, e-mail email@example.com, see www.sequim seniorcenter.org or visit 921 E. Hammond St., Sequim, for more information.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.