There are a lot of different kinds of relationships. Each one is different. There are romances that blossom into lifelong marriages. There are the relationships that we have with our children; first we care for them and then they care for us. There’s the ebb and flow of acquaintances; we wave to our local grocer and chat with our neighbors. There are the trust-filled relationships that naturally develop out of vulnerability: our therapists, dentists and doctors. We have enemies. And we have friends.
It would be impossible to say which relationship is more vital. Depending on where we are, or where we’re going, each relationship proves itself essential somehow. Well, maybe our enemies aren’t especially important. However, our friendships certainly are! Our friendships mark their importance by their sense of equal footing, of fair play. It is in our friendships that we get together solely to laugh, play and remember. The Gig Harbor Senior Center is just such a place, “where seniors can meet with their peers,” says the Director of the Senior Center Joyce Schultz. This is why the center is so vital. It’s simply a place to hang, to make new friends and to meet on common ground. From that common ground it’s often that seniors start their own breakfast or coffee groups outside the center. The Gig Harbor Senior Center is truly a place that seniors can call their own.
This May marks the one-year anniversary of the adoption of the Senior Center by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. Since the foundation included the Senior Center under its umbrella, the center has benefited by its recognition as a viable community organization. Under the umbrella of the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, the center has begun fundraising, bought insurance and signed a lease for a new location. Under the GGHF it benefits from 501(c)3 status, which means it has access to fiscal funds and a board of directors. With the additional resources they were able to hire coordinator Heidi Henson, re-build activities, grow their membership and facilitate community interaction. That’s a lot in one year!
Last year the Senior Center was held in the Boys and Girls Club. When that location became unavailable to them, the center met with GGHF in the hopes that the center could be saved. Since signing with the foundation, the center has had the privilege of meeting in the Peninsula Lutheran Church four days a week. It is en route to finding a permanent location. Because of the vital partnership with the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, there is a framework in place for forward movement. Where before the center was restricted by a lack of resources, now they are free to dream.
At least, they were dreaming. And they will dream again. The recent pandemic, however, has forced the Senior Center to think outside the box. Seniors have suddenly become reliant on technology to combat loneliness, order groceries, receive medical advice, stay up to date on current news and access general community resources. There are plenty of apps available built for communication and increased resources, like FaceTime, WhatsApp and Zoom. But seniors are not familiar with these. The Senior Center has put together social media tutorials as well as personally called each of their members to connect them with greater resources.
The Senior Center website is being used as a platform for activity, with videos on music, read-along groups, educational speakers, and exercise. As for more practical needs, the Senior Center has teamed up with Catholic Community Services to provide free lunches to seniors twice a week. The Senior Center is also facilitating a Silver Support Shoppers program. This program connects volunteer personal shoppers with seniors unable to make it to the grocery store, due to the current (as of press time) stay-home stay-safe mandates.
It is inspiring how the Gig Harbor community has come along the Senior Center with everything from volunteers to providing food and resources for seniors. The community has enabled the center to reach beyond its members to impact all the seniors in the community. The Senior Center is not an isolated program. This out-of-the-box thinking, and willingness to partner with the community, shows just how attentive the center is to the needs of Gig Harbor as a whole. It’s that spirit of innovation that will continue to impact the greater community in the future.
The Senior Center defines success by its capacity for leadership, service, engagement, innovation, remembrance and a greater quality of life. Leadership is an expected trait in the Senior Center, and members are encouraged to engage with their membership to bring about the center that they want to see. Service is seen through the quality of the programs offered to seniors through the center, from conversational French to Thai Chi classes. Engagement is seen in the willingness of members to involve themselves in civic service; seniors are recognized as an active and vital part of a thriving community. The center's capacity for innovation has already been outlined but is further seen in the variety of activities that cater to a variety of interests. The Senior Center honors the vitality and accomplishments of its members by listening. Each of these standards brings about a greater quality of life for every member, which is the greatest sign of success.
The Senior Center is always working at being a successful community asset for seniors using the guidelines for success listed above. Membership provides for a sense of ownership, prompting a greater level of engagement in the vitality of its community. Every member owns and contributes a piece of the overall quality of every program. However, most seniors are on a fixed income; the cost of membership is a very low yearly charge, and no senior is turned away from lack of monetary resources. For that reason, membership does not even begin to cover overhead. As such, the center is incumbent on its community for success. With our support, the Senior Center will continue to be an active vehicle for a greater community; a community where every member, no matter their age, thrives.