Monday, June 30, 2008

Senior Center open house draws big crowd for music, free lunch

Please click on image to ENLARGE photo of Northwest Arkansas Times photographer Andy Shupe photographing Frankie Kelly playing his fiddle at the Fayetteville Senior Activity Center on Sunday, June 29, 2008.

People crowd open house
BY DUSTIN TRACY Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Monday, June 30, 2008

Gospel music played and tables were full at the Fayetteville Senior Center open house Sunday afternoon.
It was exactly what Director Sherri Napier was aiming for when she decided to have the center’s secondever open house.
“It’s awareness,” she said. “A lot of people think the senior center is a nursing home or for the poor. They don’t really know much about it.”
Napier and her staff spent weeks outside local Wal-Marts advertising the open house, hoping to attract more seniors who might become regular attendees. The more people who become members, the more funding the center can get from the government and the more opportunities it can provide to seniors, she said.
“In Washington County we have the numbers; we just need to get them here,” she said. “There are people here today that have never been here before.”
About 200 people filled the room, eating cake and enjoying the music.
Napier said she’d like to host more open houses to spark the community’s interest.
Across the county, senior centers are making cuts.
Kaye Curtis, the director of senior services for the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District, which oversees senior centers in the county, said earlier this month that the Farmington and Prairie Grove centers are cutting their operating hours and reworking their director’s positions. Gas prices, along with the fact that centers have to supply 51 percent of their own funding with donations and fund-raisers, are taking their toll.
The open house Sunday also provided some positive publicity for the center.

Lately, Napier said, she had been experiencing difficulties with members who had their own ideas of how they wanted to spend the center’s money. She said the ideas were good, but there just wasn’t any money to be spent. The center is operating with a $14, 000 deficit each month, she said, and she hopes to avoid the funding problems by tapping what she said was “ money there for the taking.”
“We’ve just got to get seniors in the door,” she said.
The center had its last open house on June 17, when about 110 people attended. Napier wants to keep the idea rolling and start working in unique twists to attract more people, like having a 1950s style dance.
The center is at 945 S. College Ave., north of Walker Park. For more information about the services it offers, call 571-2920.
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