By Kathleen Spring
A year ago, the Walt Self Senior Center was a place rarely used, with a dead lunch program. This month we had a big celebration party commemorating the now successful and active senior center.
After decades of strong, caring management by the Lyons senior group The Golden Gang, in recent years, most of the membership had
either moved to Longmont due to medical needs, or passed away. To fill this void, two “unofficial” senior groups started about two years ago.
Lyons Longevity (LL) was formed in 2016 with focus group meetings to decide on what the local seniors wanted. Co-founder Annie Mannering wanted to start new programs that had a focus on involving "active" seniors. Her group believe that seniors in 2016 wanted a fresh look to the senior hall, and younger focused activities that were open to all ages. The group had no plans to form an official senior club.
On the other hand, I formed Loving Lyons Senior Group (LLS) with the focus of bringing in seniors who wanted to form a new senior community that would bring back nutritious lunches, but more tasty, and to partake in a variety of exciting activities, similar to what was popular in the past. During the slow demise of the Golden Gang, my popular field trips, and the Golden Gang's fun crafts events were taken over by the Town of Lyons, and they became lacking in frequency and excitement. I felt a club would have built-in willing volunteers to put on those dozens of fun activities again.
These two groups' plans succeeded in some ways, and failed in others. LL was able to decorate the senior hall with fresh decor, but it did not succeed in getting Boulder County to allow a social area in the center, with comfortable chairs and an entertainment center. Their monthly social dinner was closed down due to the restaurant closing. In December 2016, Ken Singer helped the group gather a long list of what seniors expressed an interest in. But LL was never able to get seniors to head the programs. It closed its operations in June 2017. It continues to have its Facebook page, Lyons Longevity, which I add postings to a couple of times a week. During the first week of each month, I also put a calendar list of all the activities for that month.
"The time has come to make it clear that Lyons Longevity is backing off from its original intention to bring together the mature folks of Lyons for mutual enjoyment, practical support and lifting the image of aging to its best," said Annie Mannering, the final active co-founder. "It seems our seniors have busy lives with personal interests and family. Nevertheless, the other communities around, large and small, do have vital, senior organizations. So, we just don’t know why it does not work in Lyons. I am concerned that not enough attention is being given by our seniors as to how to overcome the obstacles of our unique situation, so we all may be able to continue to age well in place. I had hoped to build upon solutions before we are faced with difficulties we are not longer able to deal with."
The other senior group that formed, in name only, is Loving Lyons Senior Group (LLS). While I still use the name when conducting senior group activities, it never did come together as an official club with officers. The first setback was losing the 501(c)3 nonprofit designation, which the Golden Gang director closed down, rather than transfer over. But I did succeed in coordinating programs almost every month of the year, from an Easter Bonnet contest, to Fourth of July music gathering, to Christmas caroling, and new pot luck dinners. Another setback was Boulder County management stopping me from doing short programs twice a week after their lunch program, stating that they only wanted Boulder County speakers. During most months this past year, they did provide a speaker talking about senior needs, such as nutrition. These talks are free and open to the public, and listed in the menu.
The most obvious accomplishment, after almost a year of planning, was the revitalization of the lunch program (Lyons Bistro), coordinated by Lyons Longevity, Teresa DeAnni, Healthy Aging Programs Manager, Boulder County Aging Services (BCAS), and myself. The lunch room was reopened, with cheerful decorations. The first lunch was served April 12, 2017, and I coordinated a big celebration, with all Lyons seniors invited, and a dozen senior-oriented administrative speakers, such as the mayor. Big smiles filled the room.
The twice-a-week lunches are prepared by Word of Mouth Catering, and delivered to the senior center. To this day, the participants still rave about the high quality, good portion size, and great taste of the lunches. As stated during the grand re-opening ceremony, it was "both Teresa and Kathleen's goal for seniors to have a home base, where they know they can come and meet old and new friends, socialize, have a hot meal, attend programs, and perhaps eventually form an official senior organization."
Teresa feels the program is a success and that the federal grant will likely be renewed. A few months into the program, she hired local Helen Vanderwerken to be the part-time kitchen manager, and other locals volunteered to serve the lunch plates. Teresa is looking for a local Lyons area company to possibly take over making these nutritious meals. The county is celebrating the program's one year anniversary with cake for the lunch participants on Friday, April 13.
The Town's Spring recreation newsletter, issued this month, reflects a pull back of senior activities, while they re-evaluate which ones are the most popular.
I am presenting a proposal to the Town to fill this gap with a variety of fun programs on the first Monday of each month. At the end of the summer, seniors can express which programs they want to continue. This will include: a travelogue, ingenious senior products presentation, intro to journaling workshop, and scenic photography presentation. These might also expand to twice a month, if interest is shown, and the following could be added: bringing back the monthly socials; attending a group concert in the park; a guided hike; games like charades. You can contact me about these or some of your favorite activities.
Decorating the senior hall is another way to bring cheer to our seniors. Let me know if you would like to help the next time I decorate the meal room for special holidays. We welcome donations of decorations in good condition. Two of our greatest volunteers are Stevie LaRue and Janet Freeman, who donate endless hours to helping others with their senior meals and programs. And, thank you to Linda Harkness who has served as Wednesday's lunch volunteer for one year. Join them in this fun and rewarding pursuit. Watch the newspapers and Facebook for activity dates.
Lyons area BCAAA counselor Colleen Sinclair, continues to have office hours in the Walt Self Senior Center. She can be reached at (303) 823-9016 Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or (303) 441-4692, her direct line, or for general BCAAA help (303) 441-1617. Many seniors have expressed appreciation of her caring attention to their needs.
The building also has a medical equipment loan closet. Contact Andrea Buus (303) 641-6950 for more information.
Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) provides counseling and funds for emergency relief. In addition, it handles two food programs for low-income or disabled people. Meals on Wheels was in danger of closing more than a year ago when The Golden Gang closed down, but LEAF took it over, and through a few grants and donations, it is now thriving and steady. The program does not rely on federal grants, so it is in no danger of being closed because of federal budget cuts. Call (720) 507-5480 or visit www.leaflyons.org.
LEAF also manages the Lyons Food Bank, which is in its tenth year. It was originally run by the Lyons Community Church. The Lyons Community Foundation formed the same year and gave the Food Bank a $5,000 grant, and it has continued doing so. Anyone living in the greater Lyons area in need of food is welcome to drop in at the lower level of 350 Main Street (Lyons Community Church) on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Another active program is the free church suppers on most Monday nights at the Senior Center at 5:30 p.m. Four Lyons area churches participate, including the Lyons Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lyons Community Church, and The River Church. Any Lyons area senior or disabled person is invited to drop in. While two of the churches have cut back the number of days they serve meals, three of Lyons seniors have instigated a monthly potluck to fill in some of the blank days on the schedule.
The Community Church often includes live musical entertainment for the seniors, which makes for a fun night. We are reaching out to musicians in town who would like to play at any of the other Monday Suppers. Contact LLS. See the LLS newsletter, or LaVern Johnson's community news column in the Lyons Recorder for details on which church is bringing the hot nourishing meal on which day.
The senior run potluck takes place on the last Monday of each month; bring a dish to share.
Lyons seniors also want to thank Oskar Blues Grill & Brew for continuing to offer delicious senior-style lunches on the first Wednesday of each month at 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. They have been doing this for many years. There is no charge, but participants are asked to tip the waitress.
Getting back to the one year anniversary party, I turned the potluck on March 26 into a Thanksgiving feast to celebrate the reopening of the senior center. It is now abuzz with activities and meals almost every day of the week! I made a turkey and had other side dishes to represent our feeling of thanksgiving to all who helped make this happen.
I wanted to surprise the seniors with a small token anniversary gift to take home. To my surprise every local gift or food store that I approached (Barking Dog, SNACK, La Mariposa, Lyons Dairy, St. Vrain Market, Stone Cup, Western Star) donated enough $5 and $10 gift certificates so that every senior who attended got to take one home! We played BINGO for an hour, and the top gifts ($25-40 price range, from Oskar Blues, Reruns, St. Vrain Pharmacy, Steamboat Mountain Foods, and Clark's Hardware) went to the winners. Gwynne's Greenhouse donated small potted annuals for every senior, and Pizza Bar 66 donated a certificate for a free pizza slice for every senior. So that each person walked away with three gifts. What wonderful generosity and kindness was shown to our Lyons seniors to mark this important accomplishment! Other stores wishing to contribute certificates or prizes for future events can email LLS.