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Underwood Center is full of activities

Oct. 07, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

If you haven't yet accumulated enough candles on your birthday cake to claim your first social security check, it's probably safe to say that your world has yet to explore the activities of the neighborhood senior center. Many retired individuals have the notion that senior centers are just a melting pot for old folks to "chill out" and play card games all day. This is perhaps one of the major misconceptions of many who have never been to one of these centers to see for themselves.

Senior centers are places for members to gather and find new independence in their lives. A place where group involvement is the norm with ongoing organized activities. It's an exclusive club for seniors where new friends are discovered, and membership is just a phone call away. Where a sense of belonging is rekindled by learning new social skills. It's a place where emotional support gives a renewed purpose to life. A senior center is all of that, and for those who attend, it's a whole lot more.

Take for instance the Underwood Senior Center at 623 9th Ave. The center, under the direction of JaneAnne Frulla, is full of vibrant activities for the 60 and over crowd five days a week.

Frulla says the center is a blessing for the 60 and over generation that seems to be gaining ground in popularity. "We take a great deal of pride in providing for our seniors," said Frulla. "Activities seem to be nonstop around here. Our Tuesday choir practice is always well attended, and I have to admit, their voices blend together quite well. In fact, they sing so well as a group, that we travel to many retirement communities to sing those songs that their generation grew up with. We also have a daily hot lunch program for a small $2.50 donation. In addition to our regular Wednesday bingo, we have a monthly late night bingo for anyone wishing to attend. Our only requirement is that you must be over 21 years of age. Our late night bingo is on the first Tuesday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 in the evening."

If you're over the age of 60, and planning on becoming a regular, be prepared to become involved. The Underwood center is full of activities that are all intended to keep you active with a smile on your face. There are exercise classes to keep those joints moving. Ballroom dancing, walking groups, bowling outings, bridge, breakfast for an outlandish half a buck, picnics, trips, grocery store excursions, computer access, and weekly health presentations. There are also medical personnel who provide blood pressure checks and other health screenings once a month.

"This place is simply the best," said 85 year-old Margaret Nelson. "I've been coming here just about every day for nearly 10 years, I can't imagine not being a part of such a wonderful group of people. My husband and I volunteer in the kitchen, we fix breakfast on Monday and Tuesday. Fifty cents for the meal, and a quarter for the coffee. It's enough to cover our expenses."

Sixty-two year-old Chester Adkins is perhaps one of the newest to become a regular at the center. Because he can no longer drive, the center provides transportation for him. He comes because he enjoys the activities and meeting new people.

Seventy-four year-old Lee Tye has been coming to the Underwood center for seven years. She calls the others who attend, her extended family. "If one person in our group has a problem, we all share that problem," said Tye. "Once you become a part of this group, you share the good and bad. That really says a lot about how close we are. When someone doesn't show up, they are called to find out why. I really do enjoy our singing group, especially when we get to go sing at the nursing homes."

Roland Roy, who is 77, loves the weekly bingo games. He started coming to the Underwood center when the one in Proctorville moved to Ironton. "I like using the computers here," said Roy. "This place gives me something to do during the day, the lunches aren't that bad either."

A most unusual story found root within this center between sixty-one year-old Laura Napier, and seventy year-old Carolyn Diamond. Seems they knew each other for years while living in Elk Grove, Ill. When Napier came to Huntington in 1976, all that remained of their friendship were phone calls, and letters on the internet. Two years ago, circumstances made it possible for Diamond to relocate to Huntington. Once the move was complete, Napier introduced her friend to the good times at the Underwood center. On the day of this visit, they were both totally involved with an intricate craft project. Their reason for belonging to this group were as obvious as the voices that blended together as they surrounded the piano.

To help with those they serve, Frulla encouraged people to support Operation Happy Elf, an outreach program for CCCSO's Meals on Wheels. It was established to deliver Christmas gifts to our Meals on Wheels clients. It began with a fundraising campaign last July, in order to reach the goal of raising $5,500 to purchase 200 gifts by Christmas. This year CSX has offered a community challenge and will contribute half of all monies raised towards Operation Happy Elf. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to CCCSO's Operation Happy Elf now, so this goal can be reached in order to deliver a little holiday joy to these very deserving individuals.

Frulla can be reached at the Underwood senior center at 304 529-3673

Clyde Beal is an area freelance writer looking for age old family Christmas traditions. Write him at archie350@frontier.com.