Senior center provides food, fun, friendship
Gig Harbor’s Senior Center is more — much more — than a place to play Bingo. It’s also a place for beanbag baseball (the team is called The Rascals), Mexican Train, mahjong, arts and crafts, and knitting, and a place to discuss a variety of topics on Wisdom Wednesdays. It’s also a place to get together to share a nourishing lunch twice a week.
But as important as all those activities are, it’s also a place where seniors find camaraderie and friendship, according to Gig Harbor Senior Center Board Chair Joyce Schultz.
“That’s always a common response when you ask our members what they like about the center,” she said. “And they say it’s also a place where they can really be who they are with their peers.”
That sense of companionship is reflected in many ways.
“It’s such a beautiful thing to see how they look out for each other,” she said. “They genuinely care about each other.”
This past summer, the center reopened in its temporary home in Peninsula Lutheran Church after a 15-month, COVID-induced shutdown. But even during that hiatus, the group was still active. Volunteers delivered more than 10,000 free meals to seniors, thanks to a partnership with BBQ2U and YMCA Camp Seymour. They also delivered more than 3,000 bags of fresh, Pierce County-grown produce through Pierce County CARES Act funds.
And a partnership with CHI Franciscan helped to secure COVID-19 vaccination appointments for nearly 300 seniors. This is an ongoing program.
“We knew that we had to stay connected with our members and keep them engaged,” Schultz said. “We knew we couldn’t just lock our doors and say, ‘Sorry. See you later.’ Our board and our volunteers really kept reaching out.”
Until a few years ago, the senior center had what they hoped was a permanent home in the Boys and Girls Club. It was a good location with lots of interaction between the seniors and the youngsters, and opportunities for physical activities like dancing, tai chi and exercise classes.
When the Boys & Girls Club building was sold to the Peninsula School District in 2019, the senior center was suddenly homeless. It took months to find another — albeit temporary — location. In the meantime, the center made an agreement with the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation to use the foundation’s “umbrella” to qualify for 501(c)(3) grants and other nonprofit privileges.
“When we joined the foundation, our primary goal was to find a building for a permanent home,” Schultz said. “But then we realized that we were sort of putting the cart before the horse. We need to have our programs in place first so we have something to offer our community.”
They found their temporary location at the Lutheran church. Soon after that, COVID shut down all activities, “But we really used that time to good advantage,” she said.
Starting this Saturday, the center is hosting a hybrid “Indulge” event to raise funds to support its programs, services and scholarships. Indulge is a combination virtual and in-person “sip and savor” experience that includes a live and online auction, sweet and savory tidbits, and a variety of local beverages. The online auction goes “live” on Saturday, with items like a Suquamish experience that includes a tour of the Suquamish Museum and a visit to Chief Seattle’s gravesite led by Leonard Forsman, Suquamish Tribe executive director, and a viewing of Native American artifacts from Forsman’s private collection.
Another lucky bidder will be treated to a VIP dinner for eight, prepared by chef Michael Monzon “in the comfort of your own home,” Schultz said. “He does everything from setup to cleanup and prepares a feast right there in your kitchen.”
There’s also an airplane ride, portrait items from photographers, artworks, getaways at Airbnbs and private wine tastings, plus the usual assortment of theme baskets, tickets to sports events, a gondola ride, glassblowing class and a variety of dining experiences, she added.
Probably the most unusual auction item is an offering of two antique tractors: a 1947 International Harvester Farmall and a 1947 John Deere B. “They don’t’ run, but they’d make wonderful yard art,” Schultz said.
The live event takes place at the Gig Harbor Yacht Club on Saturday, Nov. 13. That event is limited to 100 guests in compliance with COVID guidelines. In addition to food, beverages and the auction, it also features personal stories from members whose lives are enriched by the senior center. There’s also an option for those who want to participate in the Nov. 13 event from home. Details and tickets are available on the center’s website at gigharborfoundation.org/indulge.
The senior center is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Peninsula Lutheran Church, 6509 38th Avenue.