Paynesville Area Center celebrates 10th anniversary

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 10/11/00.

Paynesville Area Center On the 10th day of the 10th month, the Paynesville Area Center celebrated its 10th anniversary.

The Paynesville Area Center held an open house yesterday, Oct. 10, with the harmonica band performing, people reminiscing, and a short program. Pictures taken during the construction of the center were on display as well as pictures of other activities that have taken place over the years.

With the growing senior population in the area, the need for a center was a topic of discussion throughout the summer of 1989. When the city of Paynesville started looking at building a new city hall, a few people thought the center and city hall could be built together.

It was finally decided that the center needed to be a separate building, apart from city hall. The city of Paynesville donated the land west of Highway 23 to the Paynesville Area Senior Citizens.

In the fall of 1989, a task force of 15 people began meeting to consider alternatives, determine interest, and secure cost estimates. Volunteers went through the phone books and identified about 1,300 area residents who were 55 years old and older.

By July of 1990, the senior citizens had raised $100,000 of their $150,000 goal in pledges.

More than 70 people turned out to help break ground for the new building on Aug. 21, 1990.

Construction on the new building started on Oct. 18, 1990. Area carpenters were hired to frame up the building for the senior citizens. The interior of the building was completed by volunteers, mostly senior citizens.

"The trips to the casinos practically paid for the parking lot," Don Torbenson, board member, said. The senior center received $15 per person for the trips.

Torbenson said it is amazing how many different fund raisers exist. One of their more unusual fund raisers included selling carpet squares for $10 a square. "The names of people who purchased a square can be found under the carpet," Torbenson said. Among the fund raisers held were auctions, fish fries, and quilt raffles.

The first Paynesville Area Senior Citizens Board was elected in November 1990. Members of the board included Mary Schultz, Joe Ridler, Don Torbenson, Shirley Sundstrom, Hazel Hood, Bert Lang, Ada Schlick, Marie Garding, Orville Hendrickson, Paul Embretson, Cyril Ampe, Judy Savage, Dick Albrecht, Cy Dillon, Father Richard Leisen, Al Pinske, Mary Janotta, and Werner Kraemer.

The Paynesville Area Senior Citizens Board held their first meeting in the new center in May of 1991. "The conference room wasn't completed. We sat on bales of insulation and boards," Torbenson said.

The senior dining program through Catholic Charities served their first dinner at the center in July 1991. They had 184 senior citizens and guests in attendance. The grand opening was held Oct. 25 to 27.

Today the senior dining site makes and delivers meals to Belgrade and Elrosa besides preparing meals for Paynesville diners. In November they will start delivering meals to Brooten once a week.

Torbenson said by August 1993, the new Paynesville Area Senior Center was debt free.

"It's interesting that 80 percent of the debt was paid for by people 50 years of age and older," Torbenson said.

The Paynesville Area Senior Citizens Board received donations from 150 businesses, 20 organizations, and three government units. The total cost of the building was $265,000.

Since its start, the center has had three directors: Doris Dodds, Jim McCalmant, and Janell Hoffman.

The center received the J. C. Penney Golden Rule Award in 1991, for outstanding volunteer service during the construction period.

Under Jim McCalmant's term as director, the center started hosting community plays. McCalmant directed three of the five plays that have been presented.

Two years ago, the Paynesville Area Senior Center dropped the word senior from its title and is today known as the Paynesville Area Center. The name was changed to reflect the fact that more and more younger people and groups are utilizing the facility.

Quilters Mary Schultz, former board member, said the programs at the center have kept evolving with the times. "Some programs have been successful while others never got off the ground," Torbenson added.

Quilters gather at the center every Thursday to stitch. Pictured are (L to R) Liz Rothstein, Rose Schaefer and Rose Lieser.

The longest running program at the center has been eyeglass recycling. Several members of the center have traveled to Guatemala and other countries to help distribute the eyeglasses. The next trip is headed to Costa Rica.

Programs that Torbenson and Hoffman foresee for the future include computers and painting. "More and more people are using computers," Torbenson said.

"There is a lot of involvement taking place at the center," said Urban Fuchs, president of the center's board. People have their choice of weekly and bi-weekly activities, he added.

"The center offers people an opportunity to get involved," Fuchs said.

With all the activities at the center, the center ran out of space for programs. This summer, the center obtained an auxiliary classroom building from the school district which was moved to the center site. Janell Hoffman, center director, said with their new building they hope to see the woodworking classes used more extensively.

Hoffman stressed the center was instrumental in getting the Paynesville Area Transit up and running in the spring of 1998 and the ROSE Center started in 1999.

"We would also like to get younger people involved," Hoffman said. By younger, she said those 50 to 70 years old. "We would also like to see more intergenerational activities take place," Hoffman added.

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