Since 2006, the Puyallup Activity Center has been a home base for hundreds of people 55 and older who find comfort and a place to belong as they pursue myriad programs and special events.
P.J. Jones said the activity center, located at 210 West Pioneer, is the center of her universe.
“Life won’t always be smooth, but I know I can always come here, and there will always be a job here for me to do, and that’s very important to me,” she said.
Jones started going to the activity center at a time when her life was in chaos.
“I had been under depression,” she said. “Things were not good.”
When she arrived, she discovered the volunteer who taught a class on how to design greeting cards was ill one day, and Jones asked Trudi Bocott, the activity center’s program assistant, if she could fill in.
“I’ve been teaching the class ever since,” Jones said.
Jones also teaches a quilling class that she suggested as a program. She takes paper and forms into different shapes, then fuses it to make a complete greeting card.
Outside of teaching, Jones has been a member of the activity center’s special events committee, and she’s quickly become the group’s staff photographer. She’s also a front-desk receptionist once a week, and that helps her get to know all the people who come through the door.
“Trudi has been so kind; everyone has been so kind and loving,” Jones said. “I get all sorts of moral support. I am in a better place, and it’s because of this place. It gave me an opportunity to show my talents and feel like a worthwhile person again. My self-esteem has risen from the bottom.”
The annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon was held at the activity center last Friday. On the menu was Irish stew and biscuits. For entertainment, the Mid-Day Melody Men, a barbershop group, entertained guests.
The luncheon, like most special events at the activity center, was free for the public. And with each event, guests brought in non-perishable goods to benefit the Puyallup Valley Food Bank.
But before the program got underway, Bocott thanked the 30 volunteers who were working the event, including servers and entertainers.
“I love you guys, and I mean that from the heart,” Bocott said.
In recent weeks, interim Puyallup City Manager Bill McDonald’s management analyst team made a presentation to the city council on its findings regarding the current state of the city’s parks and recreation department.
Within the report, recommendations related to the Puyallup Activity Center are few, with the exception that efforts should be made to continue to cross-promote the space for smaller groups that find the pavilion too big for their needs.
Pavilion manager Sarah Harris is taking the lead on the management analyst team-recommended initiative.
With a budget of $608,103, which encompasses most facilities maintenance costs and salaries for three full-time employees, the activity center is not a big slice of the parks and recreation pie. Anticipated operating costs for 2013 are $76,000, including supplies. Revenue generated from trips and tours, expected to be about $54,000 this year, will go back into supporting programs.
Bocott said the activity center would not exist without volunteers. In 2012, more than 300 volunteers committed 15,000 service hours.
“There is no way on this earth that our senior center could be open every day, five days a week, nine hours a day, sometimes longer,” Bocott said. “It would be impossible, because three people couldn’t do it.”
Doug McCormick, senior services supervisor, said programs have steadily increased since 2006.
“The need goes up,” McCormick said. “There are 200 visitors that come through in a day. In 2012, there were over 150 unduplicated programs and 56,000 duplicated registered users. There were 1,200 unduplicated users a month.”
At the St. Patrick’s Day luncheon, Puyallup City Council member John Hopkins voiced his support for the activity center.
“Thank you to the volunteers,” he said. “They do an absolutely phenomenal job. When you have 200 people coming to the activity center, you have a resource that people love. It’s a tremendous value for the tax dollars that can’t be replaced. The activity center is 100 percent safe.”
Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.