Senior center celebrates three decades

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2007

For three decades, seniors have been gathering each weekday in the Camellia City to share a hot meal and warm friendship, not to mention plenty of hands of Skipbo, dominoes and a little bingo, too.

That place is the Greenville Nutrition Center. The center will be celebrating its 30th anniversary from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. next Friday, February 2.

&#8220We will have coffee and cake that morning and invite people to stop in if they can,” Senior Services Director Mary Braden said.

&#8220It will be a ‘come and go' event, and we would love to see the faces of some of those who used to attend, along with their family members and our current participants.”

The center was born in the recreation room of the Greenville Housing Project on Beeland Street in February 1977, a joint project between the City of Greenville and South Central Alabama Development Commission (SCADC).

In a Greenville Advocate article announcing the center's open house, its first site manager, Mabel Langford, promised citizens 60 and older more than just a good meal.

&#8220We will offer recreation, nutritional education, counseling and a whole lot more,” Langford said.

Over the years, that &#8220whole lot more” has included a myriad of activities, everything from Hawaiian luaus and hat parades to &#8220old-time” dress-up days, Easter egg dying sessions, Mexican fiestas and homemade Valentine card contests.

Countless, colorful quilts have also been lovingly stitched by the talented center ladies over the years.

Travel has also been part of the program, including trips to Callaway Gardens, the Pike Pioneer Museum and a riverboat cruise on the General Montgomery. And countless quilts have been created by the talented quilters who attend the center.

The Greenville Nutrition Center &#8220traveled” to a new home in 1985 with construction of a spacious building on Cedar Street.

In 2000, an activity center, the Camellia Senior Center on Bolling Street, opened its doors, offering more opportunities through craft, exercise and nutrition classes and other special events.

Today, some 51 seniors ages 60-plus eat at the Greenville Nutrition Center each weekday, with another 35 who are medically homebound having meals delivered to them.

&#8220We give so many of our folks a greater quality of life. It's the fellowship, the food, the interaction - I think it helps their overall well being,” says Braden as she browses through several albums filled with senior center photos taken throughout the years.

While many of the well-loved faces are no longer present, there are at least one or two individuals who have been with the center since its beginning.

&#8220Fannie Hall was attending the center when it was still located at the housing project. She's well into her 90s now and still going strong,” Braden said.

Other long-time attendees include centenarian Herbert Johnson and his wife Lucille, who love playing Skipbo.

&#8220Mr. Herbert just finished up his 21 days in the nursing home and is back home building up his strength,” Braden said.

&#8220He's had a friend come over and play Skipbo with him to keep him in practice until he can be back with us.”

Braden is hoping the Johnsons and many others will be able to attend next Friday's event and perhaps stir up some special memories of their own - not unlike a family reunion.

&#8220As Cathy Brown, our site manager says, the senior center is truly like a family. They look out for one another,” Braden said.

According to Braden, new families have actually blossomed over the years, with several of the senior center regulars becoming sweethearts and marrying.

&#8220All in all, it is a really special place and special part of many seniors' lives,” the director said.

For more information on the nutrition center, call 382-6500. All area citizens who are 60 and older are eligible to attend; however, meals are reserved and participants are asked to call in advance.

&#8220We are always looking for new people to join us and community volunteers to share their skills and talents with us. Stop in to see what we have to offer,” Braden said.

&#8220And be sure and join us next Friday for our celebration.”