They gather each day for lunch and, as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance and say a blessing over their meal, they feel thankful.
After all, if it weren’t for the daily lunch and activities at the Arlington Senior Center, some seniors believe they wouldn’t leave the house very much.
The socializing is one of reasons Arlene Stork shows up every day at 11:30 a.m. for lunch.
“It’s a good way to get out and stay active and get a good meal,” said Stork, who’s been going to the senior center since May 16, 1980, the second day it opened.
Jack Cady, Leonard Wulf and Floyd Loftis started the senior center on May 15, 1980, and invited Stork and her husband, Wally, to join them the next day.
“Floyd Loftis came to our door that afternoon and said, ‘You’re signed up for tomorrow,’” Stork said.
In addition to attending lunch, Stork also plays cards, bingo and participates in other activities, such as chair exercises and Tuesday night Supper Clubs twice a month, which average an attendance of 50 people. She also serves on the center’s board of directors.
The people at the center are like an extended family, Stork said.
“Some of these people don’t have family nearby,” she said. “We all treat each other like family.”
When asked what she would be doing if she wasn’t attending activities at the Senior Center, Stork said she’d probably be sitting at home.
Bunny Holling learned about the senior center from her mom, Mary Purcell, who went there in the early years. She, too, likes the socializing and said it gets her out of the house.
“I love coming here,” she said. “Everybody is so friendly and the food is good.”
The lunch program is offered through the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging (ENOA). Cheryl Abbott, who is employed by ENOA, serves as the center’s director. She’s been director for about two years.
Abbott said the lunch program is an important program for the seniors because it’s an opportunity for them to get a hot meal.
The center, she said, serves as a watering hole for seniors in the community. The center hosted about 677 people last month for various activities.
It also serves as a place for people to gather for their morning coffee.
“Since there isn’t really any place to go for coffee anymore, the guys come down here,” she said. “They open the building at 7 a.m. and everybody comes here to have coffee.”
Seniors can also participate in activities, such as tai chi, and hear from speakers two to three times a month. Topics usually center on nutrition and good health, Abbott said. A podiatrist also visits once a month for pedicures.
There is no cost to join the senior center, but Abbott said there are suggested donations for lunch and other activities. The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Becky Hinige said she comes to the center because she likes to hear everyone’s stories and as a way to help out.
“Cheryl cannot do everything by herself, so I try to help her out,” she said.
She said coming to the center helped a lot after her husband’s death last year.
“I just came back here automatically,” she said. “It helps.”
Sylvia Green and Linda Thomsen just recently starting attending lunch at the center. Both are retired school bus drivers and they said it’s a great way to get together with people.
Abbott said members are currently planning a number of events for summer, which will include a Christmas in July event.
“We will have a Christmas meal and then go out caroling around town and in Fremont,” Jean Thompson said. “We will sing Christmas and patriotic songs.”
Abbott agrees with members when they say the social part is among the important aspects of a senior center.
“It gives them something to do every day,” Abbott said, which is important to a lot of people.