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Snohomish Senior Center, at 30, gives community a second home
There's going to be a party on April 18

SNOHOMISH — The Snohomish Senior Center is turning 30, and director Sharon Burlison has a few wishes in mind for members.
Today, activities at the center reach well beyond the traditional senior center staples of a hot lunch, conversation and cards.
Board member and center regular Judy Spaetig can rattle off the schedule with alacrity. There’s ping pong, movie mornings, Zumba, Spanish, wood carving and of course, bingo.
For Spaetig, widowed after 61 years of marriage, a recently started support group for people who’ve experienced a loss has been a comfort. The center also offers Alzheimer’s and caregiver support groups.
The 30th anniversary open house will be on Thursday, April 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. The center will be sporting a new coat of paint and other touches for the party.
“I walked in the door and said ‘what a wonderful place... and wonderful things happen here. It’s the best senior center I’ve been in,” said Glenda Cunningham Barnhart.
Then there are the mystery meals.
Once a month, Burlison whisks a small, rotating group of members to a local restaurant — they find out which when they arrive — for a chance to connect and gather feedback.
“‘You have to tell me what you need’” she says she tells her captive audience.
New voices are invited at the center through unusual business cards.
On the cards is a penny and a quarter. The penny is for their thoughts and the quarter will buy a cup of coffee at the center, Snohomish’s best deal on joe.
One of those thoughts was to form a French conversation club. Senior center regular Gunter Simon is a club member.
Before the April 18 celebration, members saluted another milestone as Simon turned 99.
Simon doesn’t live in Snohomish; he’s a Lake Stevens resident, but he wouldn’t have spent the afternoon anywhere else.
“When I came to this senior center, they adopted me,” he said.
Over lunch last month, men and women, many his junior by 20 or 30 years, stopped by to pat Simon’s back, shake his hand and offer congratulations.
But festivities really lit up when Carol Ann Pinto walked in with authentic French chocolate croissants. Husband Carlos Pinto explained that the flaky birthday treats took four days to prepare.
The center offers much more than classes, it creates community — a second home to 800 members, about 200 of whom show up on any given day.
It’s for them Burlison is making the anniversary wishes.
She hopes to solicit $50,000 in a fundraising campaign this year.
With the money, the center could replace its 15-passenger van. She’d like to add capacity: the current van can transport no more than 10 percent of the center’s daily visitors.
She’d also like to offer a free lunch once a week. While the paid lunch is already popular, the facility isn’t at capacity and Burlison is concerned seniors in the community aren’t all well nourished. For some, the $4 price may be an obstacle.
Burlington is also reaching out to her sister agencies in hopes of establishing full reciprocity that would allow members to attend other centers without paying multiple membership fees.
At the Snohomish center, membership is $35 per year and open to everyone 18 and over.
The perks are many, including discounted lunches, a free legal clinic, a $10 per month pass to numerous fitness classes and a free monthly haircut.
The dues don’t pay the bills.
The center operates on about $500,000 a year, Burlison said. Contributions from local businesses, charities and government, plus a $1 lease from the city offset expenses.
Volunteers stretch the budget further, supplementing the staff of seven. In January, volunteers contributed 1,033 hours.
Many of those hours are put in at the successful Fabulously Frugal Thrift Shop. There, treasure hunters on a budget can find anything from jewelry and clothing to china and children’s toys.
The senior center is settled now at its 506 Fourth St. address where it’s been since 2008.
Before that, seniors congregated at St. Michael Church for about four years. The center’s original home on Cypress Avenue was ruled out for a new building after the discovery of extensive human remains at a pioneer cemetery site there.
To learn more about the storied center and its even more fascinating members and programs, come to the center.
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