Senior Center celebrates 25 years

Open house August 8

Answering questions.  Lending a helping hand.  And offering something to do.

Providing education, charity, and activities are three major purposes of the Forest Lake Senior Center.  But that’s not all.

You can exercise, get your blood pressure checked, or attend a foot care clinic.  Take a class that lowers your car insurance bill.  Even get free legal advice.

Director Sharon Lundquist shows one of the photo boards that will be on display at the open house.

Learn about the many offerings next Wednesday, Aug. 8, when the Senior Center hosts an open house and senior expo from 1 to 3 p.m.

Between incorporation in December of 1986 and the grand opening in May of 1988, the current senior center was built at 767 4th St. SW in Forest Lake, replacing a former site that had less to offer.

Twenty-five years later, people of all ages will celebrate the anniversary of this important event in Forest Lake history. The event is free, and everyone is invited.

Expect door prizes, raffles, and a silent auction. Raffle tickets go for $1 and are available at the front office, or at the open house until 2:30, when the drawing will be held. Raffle prizes include a quilt, baby quilt, and laptop computer with printer. (Winners need not be present at the drawing.)

Bring 50 cents to buy an ice cream sundae.

Vendors will be on hand, some with free items.  Use this opportunity to learn about crime prevention, medical supplies, support groups, home and hospice services, nutrition, banking, train excursions, veterans’ benefits, getting help with chores, legacy writing, chiropractic care, hard-of-hearing telephone services, blood pressure readings, driving safety courses, memory biography, emergency services, Medicare information, volunteer opportunities, parks and recreation, health and environment, and funeral arrangements.

Information Center

Sharon Lundquist, a Forest Lake native who has been the senior center director for two years, said people hear about it mainly by word of mouth.  And a big part of her job is helping seniors find information about other services.

“We try to help seniors as much as possible, especially if they recently moved into the area,” Lundquist said. “I usually am trying to connect seniors” to a service, she explained.

She tells people about senior centers in other towns.

“With Linwood, we promote theirs and they promote ours,” she said. “If someone lives in Columbus and is looking for a place to eat—Columbus serves meals twice a week.”

Forest Lake also has joint outings with the senior center at Lino Lakes.

Two brochure racks hold information about housing options, scams against seniors, food sources, AARP, services for the blind, and many other topics.

“We’re a clearinghouse for information,” Lundquist said.

One booklet she finds especially helpful is the 2010 Washington County Resource Guide for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities.  But she also provides information about other county’s services.

“We serve Chisago, Washington, and Anoka counties. We give information for wherever they’re located,” she explained.

Another helpful resource is the Senior LinkAge Line, which answers questions about Medicare, disabilities and other senior citizen issues (1-800-333-2433 or www.minnesotahelp.info).  This is one of the main phone numbers given out at the center.

Other Services

The Forest Lake Senior Center hosts a monthly potluck, which attracts 30 to 70 people, and a birthday lunch, a full-course meal.  Both events are for ages 55 and up.

Registered nurse Vanessa Novak does blood pressure checks twice a month.  This month the times are Tuesday, Aug. 7 from 12:30 to 1:30, and Wednesday, Aug. 15, from 11 to 12:30.

A free nutrition class, “Healthy Body, Healthy Budget,” will be taught by registered dietitian Katie Wahl on Tuesday, Aug. 6 from 10:30 to noon.

Lundquist said the center is always open to suggestions for other programming.

Facilities

The senior center is located at 767 4th Street in Forest Lake.

The building has a main level and a basement.  From the parking lot, a concrete ramp with a gentle rise is easy to walk up or maneuver a wheelchair to the main level.

To go through the glass doors, you can pull a door open or use the handicapped-accessible automatic door opener.

An office on the left has garden scenes painted on the walls. The same artist decorated the lounge, which houses the library.

The meeting room is large enough for a crowd but has a collapsible wall to separate the space into two rooms.

The main level also has restrooms, a commercial kitchen, and offices.

The basement is also accessible to all. The stairs between levels are equipped with a licensed wheelchair platform lift.  An exterior door also provides wheelchair access.

Exercise classes are held in the basement.  In the two years she’s been on the job, Lundquist said, participation has grown from about 7 to about 20 people exercising.  The coed exercise class is held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:30 to 11:30.

Also in the lower level is a large room with several woodworking benches.  During the fall, winter, and spring, there is open woodcarving every Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Funding

The senior center is owned by the city of Forest Lake.  A partnership between the city and former township paid for construction of the facility.

Substantial repairs have also been funded by the city.  When last summer’s rains caused a basement wall to crack, they all had to be reinforced. The city spent over $70,000 on that project.

The city budgets about $42,000 per year for operations and also covers insurance costs. City workers clear snow from the parking lot and maintain the grounds.

Programming is through a board of directors under a joint powers agreement with the city of Forest Lake.  Lundquist reports to the city and the board.

“The money we get from the city is to maintain the building,” she explained.

When seniors wanted a more accessible front entrance, she said, the center raised funds for a new door.

How does the center get revenue? Membership is $15 per person. The senior center rents out rooms for meetings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events.

Since the center is a non-profit organization, donations are accepted from businesses and individuals.

Needs

Lundquist said people tell her that Forest Lake seniors have two issues:  transportation and food options.

Forest Lake no longer has Meals on Wheels, which at one time operated from the senior center kitchen.

Family Pathways used to bring a free meal for the unemployed and families on Tuesday nights, serving from 20 to 60 people, Lundquist said, but that program was dropped.

The Forest Lake Senior Center does not provide any community meals except the potluck and birthday lunch for ages 55 and up.

There is a taxi service in town (Anna’s Taxi will get you from Forest Lake to the international airport for $45), but for lower income people, there are few options.  If the senior center had a van, Lundquist said, volunteer licensed drivers could take people to medical appointments and activities at the center.

The senior center is also looking for a cable-ready DVD player.

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