Senior Center more than just activities

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Natchez Senior Citizen&8217;s Multipurpose Center is not only a place for seniors to participate in a broad spectrum of activities, but also a place to form friendships and sometimes find love.

&8220;The Natchez Senior Center is the only senior center in the state of Mississippi to my knowledge that offers as many services as we do under one umbrella,&8221; Executive Director Sabrena Bartley said.

As the center goes into its 30th year it offers a list of services including exercise classes, a swimming pool, transportation, educational programs, computer classes, opportunities for senior volunteer work, ceramics, leisure activities, Bible studies, bingo and group trips to places such as the state fair.

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The senior volunteers help with everything from teaching other seniors to read, to helping at the hospitals, and working at the Stew Pot.

Bartley said the center targets the more low-income seniors, however, it is open to everyone. According to Bartley, a lot of older adults don&8217;t have computers at home, especially if they are financially challenged and at the center they can e-mail their grandchildren or make business transactions.

Workers at the center also help on a one-on-one basis when it is needed with issues such as understanding a drug prescription plan, getting a hot meal, providing transportation to a vital service or helping settle a dispute over a bill.

Beyond all of these services people form friendships and even find love at the center.

&8220;Some have no family and here they share conversations and make new friends.&8221; Bartley said. &8220;We are the family away from home for a whole lot of people.&8221;

Bartley has worked at the center for about six years and recalls some of the past relationships that formed at the center. One of the current couples is William Buckles, 78, and Earline Short, 64.

The two have been an item for about a year and met at a table making crafts in adult day care. They say they have just about everything in common. Buckles visits Short&8217;s home on the weekends and they go to church together. He recalled having seen her from a far in the church before they spoke at the center. Now they sit side by side.

Bill Cassels, 88, and Phil Crothers, 82 are the pool sharks at the center. They can be found on almost any given day trading shots at the pool table. Cassels likes to refer to Crothers as just being a youngster.

&8220;It&8217;s just a good way to pass the time,&8221; Crothers said.

Margaret Davis, 69, and Ruth Robinson, 65, are more interested in ceramics. Robinson sells nearly all of her ceramics and most of Davis&8217;s creations go her to loved ones, although she also likes to sell them. Davis said she considers all the people in ceramics to be her friends. Robinson thinks of them like family.

&8220;The time flies because I&8217;m occupied and out of the house,&8221; Robinson said.

Program Coordinator Edwina Petersen loves working with the seniors and learning the wealth of information they hold.

&8220;When you talk to someone who was born in 1906 and has lived though two World Wars it is amazing,&8221; Petersen said.

Petersen has worked at the center for about eight years and said the staff has begun recording oral histories. She hopes to one day have an entire library available. She said has known several to celebrate their 100th birthdays.