You don't have to be a "senior" citizen to join the Del Norte County Senior Center on Northcrest Drive.
This home to one of the area's most successful showcases of community volunteerism accepts adults of any age. Enjoying its services requires only a $12 annual membership fee.
The center, created to give elderly citizens a place to gather, socialize, enjoy nutritious meals and have access to various services, has morphed into a spot where every month is crammed with interesting activities for adults, seniors or not.
Activities include two types of exercise classes, both line and square dance classes, free legal advice, table games such as cards, Bunco, Scrabble and others.
Its lunches are famous and cheap. Donations of three or five dollars are requested, but no one is turned away for lack of funds, say center officials. Lines waiting for food often reach the front door. Think Grand Central Station.
Lunches are served there every week from Monday through Friday unless Friday is picnic-time and people go to a park for lunch. Besides this, 60-70 Meals on Wheels are served daily to shut-ins on the same schedule. Wednesday diners are always serenaded by the legendary Boondock Band.
A blood pressure clinic and a program on Hi Cap insurance information also are included. Most activities are free. Catered Sunday dinners for the widowed persons are an exception.
Del Norte Senior Center is headed by three of only 12 employees. Cindy Brande is executive director. Tracy Lawson is volunteer coordinator. Eileen Silvey is program director in charge of juggling limited space to include all groups and clubs wishing to use it.
The volunteers ¬ó about 40 of them, are the engine that powers both programs and services, such as KP duty and cooking all those meals every day. Everything costs money. The local Area Agency on Aging provides $12,000 a month toward the meals.
Local donors include Pizza Hut, Elk Valley Casino, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Safeway and Del Norte Office Supply. Many of the volunteers are seniors, people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. Some are young people. Virtually every social activity offered is run by volunteers.
Among them are people like Jackie Brixey, exercise director. Brixy has been at it for "about eight years," she says. A former nurse, she is an aqua-exercise specialist. An assistant who sometimes spells her is Jean McCord. Gail Brotherhood's Tai Chi classes at the Methodist Church spilled over into the Senior Center.
Florence Howard, who has probably volunteered for everything one can volunteer for in this county, is on duty at the check stand three days a week. Retired doctors, attorneys, and other specialists are on the list. The center is now used by several Crescent City Women's Club sub-groups, service organizations and the like.
Virtually everything offered by the center couldn't exist without volunteers. Truly a remarkable example of community spirit at work in this "senior" fun palace.