Senior Centers Provide Food And Fun

SENIOR REVIEW

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Payson Senior Center, 514 W. Main St.

When Jerry Knight moved with his brother and wife from the Valley to Payson a year ago, he was pleased to discover the Payson Senior Center.

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Staying mentally active through card and other games is just as important to good health in seniors, as staying active with exercise. At the Payson and Pine senior citizens' centers, members have an opportunity to sit down for lively card games, stimulating conversation, education and good food.

"I love the meals and the people I talk to," Knight said. "Everyone is so polite and friendly."

And seniors get quite a bang for their buck, because at $10 per year, membership divides to just over 83 cents per month.

The days brim with free activities and necessary activities and the bustle of volunteers that keep it all going on a shoestring budget.

Monday

9 a.m.: Music Makers

12:30 p.m. Canasta

12:45 p.m. Bridge

Tuesday

9:30 a.m. Aerobics

10:30 a.m. Line Dancing

12:45 p.m. Pinochle or Rummikube

1 p.m. Eucher

Wednesday

10:30 a.m. Bible Study

12:45 p.m. Rummikube or Bridge

Thursday

8:30 a.m. New line dancing

9:30 a.m. Aerobics

10:30 a.m. Line dancing

12:30 p.m. Wood carving

Friday

12:30 p.m. Canasta

12:45 p.m. Pinochle

There will be a computer class beginning in September. Beginners will meet Mondays at 10 a.m.; advanced users at 1:30 p.m.

Activity days and times are subject to change.

On Fridays at 3 p.m., Betty Pontius comes to pamper the feet of four seniors who have signed up for the service. The cost is $20.

Seniors can find tax help in early spring at their center.

Instructors with a special hobby or skill they would like to share are invited to contact "Gayle," who coordinates putting new classes on the schedule.

Legal assistance, for those 60-years or older, is available one Tuesday each month, courtesy of the Pinal Council for Senior Citizens, Casa Grande. Appointments are necessary.

Benefit specialist Bill Spangler, a staff member of the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens, is available each day until noon to answer questions about access to community services, such as Medicare and Social Security.

The new Ambassador program is starting through PGCSC. Ambassadors are community volunteers trained to have knowledge of all resources available for seniors within the community. Call (800) 293-9393 for details.

Payson's Senior Center opened its doors 29 years ago.

"We are one of the few free-standing senior centers in the state," said Marsh Cauley, PSC manager.

The services volunteers provide are vast.

Greeters welcome seniors in the mornings with a smile and ensure that coffee is brewing.

Meals on Wheels drivers and runners may be the only contact a senior has during the day.

The cost of a complete meal for the homebound is $3 and meets one third of the daily requirement for nutrition. Currently there are 125 people on the program.

Backup tram drivers (With CDL licenses) help the center provide the only low-cost transportation to seniors and the disabled in Payson, weekdays.

The center requires at least a one-day notice for scheduling purposes.

There is a suggested donation of $4 per round trip.

A volunteer mans the lunch sign-in desk from 9:30 in the morning until lunch is served at noon sharp.

The suggested donation for lunch is $3 for those age 60 and over and $5 under 60 years old. Each meal includes milk and fresh fruit. Entrees include Salisbury steak, lasagna, taco salad or turkey.

Call (928) 474-4876 for reservations.

There is always room for kitchen assistants to help paid kitchen staff load the dishwashers after lunch.

Volunteers receive a discount at the thrift store and a free meal for any four-hour workday.

The thrift store is a vital part of Payson Senior Center's environment.

Clothes, furniture and household goods are just a start of the things shoppers may find inside the store and out back.

Volunteers sort, unload, sometimes repair and deliver heavy items. Friendly volunteer cashiers help shoppers spend their money and get the correct change.

One hundred percent of thrift store dollars feeds back into the $400,000 it takes each year to keep Payson Senior Center solvent. The rest of the money comes from donations, and grants and a portion of Arizona lottery money.

According to Cauley, the Center is faced with finding $170,000 in donations each year.

Pine Senior Center -- Pine Community Center

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Senior residents in Pine and Strawberry can come to the Pine Senior Citizens Center for a nutritious, hot meal for a reasonable price. Residents who come to the center also have the opportunity for conversation and companionship.

BBQ ribs, crispy baked chicken and fish on Fridays are just a few of the entrees served up for lunch weekdays at the Pine Senior Center.

"I drive from Globe to eat here," Dennis Ashcroft said.

When he is questioned as to why, he admits to driving a mail truck from Globe to Pine each day.

People, age 50 plus can join PSC for $5 a year.

"I was already 55 when I found out about it, so I missed five years of it," Ashcroft said, then shook his head.

He has been driving his route for 27 years and did not stop to talk.

"Now, you never shut up," one of his friends calls for a seat down the long table and several people laugh. Including Ashcroft.

"I'm a pretty good cook, but I can't cook this good for this price," Ashcroft adds.

Lunch costs $5. The salad bar is $3. A beverage is included with both.

Meals on Wheels is $5.50.

To dine in PSC requires a 24-hour reservation. The number is (928) 476-2151. There is a $2 fee for a no-show or failure to cancel by 8 a.m., the day of the meal.

The room holds 50, but there is an unwritten rule at the PSC that when only a few people show up for lunch, they eat at the same table.

Like its counterpart in Payson, the camaraderie in the room is quite palpable.

And the hot meals are complete and delicious, according to Christy Powers, Pine Strawberry Focus columnist.

As an added bonus, there are games to play at 12:30 p.m. after lunch, if diners are so inclined.

"We have real high stakes poker on Mondays and Fridays," organizer Bruce Thompson said.

There is a 25-cent limit and they play mostly stud poker.

"We call it social poker, because we laugh a lot," Thompson added.

"He always happens to be the big winner," someone down the dining table remarks. Again, shared laughter fills the room.

Members play canasta on Tuesday, pinochle on Wednesday, and bridge is played on Fridays. The pool table is, of course, stationary, so players can get behind the eight-ball anytime.

Those $5 per year memberships also mean that members can use the dining hall to hold their own parties for birthdays, anniversaries and such.

It is open, free of charge, for community activities as long as the activity is nonprofit. There is a fee to use the hall for a moneymaking event.

The meals program is supported by the Thrift Store.

The actual cost of a lunch, including rent, utilities, food, delivery and staff is around $14.50, Thompson said.

The Pine Thrift Store is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Shoppers can wander through four rooms of other folk's ‘junque' including books, nice clothing for children and adults and household goods. Outside is furniture. Donations of gently used items are gladly taken during regular hours.

Thompson or Becky Gudnason are happy to speak with anyone interested in becoming a volunteer. They can be reached at the store, (928) 476-4633.

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