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Senior Club in crisis as its Gig Harbor meeting spot is being sold

The Senior Club must find a new home after being located at the Gig Harbor Boys & Girls Club for nine years. At a recent forum, many club members raised their hands when asked by a panel, “How many of you do not live in Gig Harbor?”
The Senior Club must find a new home after being located at the Gig Harbor Boys & Girls Club for nine years. At a recent forum, many club members raised their hands when asked by a panel, “How many of you do not live in Gig Harbor?” Contributing writer

Folks over 60 are feeling the crisis of losing their home away from home at the Gig Harbor Boys & Girls Club.

A lunch forum was held March 21 at the Boys & Girls Club to address the sale of the building and subsequent loss of a place for seniors to meet. It was attended by a diverse and concerned group of seniors and guests, including Mayor Kit Kuhn, several City Council members, representatives of Penmet Parks and Boys & Girls Club officials.

The room was filled to capacity, with over 75 people in attendance. Passion and distress were palpable.

Guest panelists Carrie Holden, President/CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, Gig Harbor Council member Jeni Woock and Amanda Babich, PenMet Parks Commissioner addressed the group. Each shared information on how her organization is involved and how it will contribute to a solution.

Intergenerational consultant Marc Avni moderated and fielded many questions from Senior Club members, participants and guests.

A decade ago, as the Boys & Girls Club was being constructed, then Gig Harbor Mayor Gretchen Wilbert brought the full force of her office to bear to create within the structure facilities for a seniors. Her premise was a mixing of age groups would flourish and help to bridge the generational chasm.

Betty Lilienthal, a member since it opened and volunteer computer instructor, and Joyce Schultz, retired Senior Club coordinator, organized the Senior Club Task Force in conjunction with Avni, Holden, Woock and PenMet Parks. The most pressing goal is to find a temporary place to house the club, since it has to move out of the Boys & Girls Club building by mid-June.

“This organization and building have been an important part of my life for the past nine plus years. Where will we go?” asked Lilienthal. “We teach, learn and play here. We enjoy the camaraderie of our peers, the feeling of being in a safe place to share our stories. I do not want to lose that! Other members have expressed their unease and fear of loss.”

During an open mic session, club member Dayle Nansel was in tears as she spoke of the upcoming closing and uncertainty of the club’s future.

Many others spoke in support of finding the Senior Club a permanent home to keep its programs viable.

Kim Walker said it is important to “maintain an accessible Senior Center.”

Marilyn Lawrence said she wants to “have a Senior Center with programs and trips.”

Jo Holt declared, “This area needs a permanent home that includes all of our current activities, but it appears we are starting with no money.”

Sandy Weir said, “The Senior Center should be a place of learning and fellowship.”

Member Nancy MacKay said, “The Senior Club is important for seniors socially and cognitively. Specifically for me, I have been taking a computer class, which has enriched my life. In class we seniors have the opportunity to stay ‘connected’ and continue learning how to operate computers as technology expands.”

“The continuation of the Senior Center is very important to me for all the services it provides for the senior community,” said Joan Barry. “Not only the great classes like tai chi and S.A.I.L., which has been a great help to me personally for my balance after my knee surgeries, but most important it is a place for seniors to gather who may not have anywhere else to go to find new friendships and become involved in their community.”

At its inception, a senior activities coordinator was hired by the B&G Club to oversee and manage the club. She was responsible for disseminating information and keeping records, developed and distributed a membership activities newsletter and calendar and through community outreach established support and involvement.

Lilienthal asked, “Who will do that now? Who will be there to help us? The seniors of our community deserve the amenities we have enjoyed for the past nine plus years. We need the connection and stability. We want to be part of the solution but need help.”

The day following the forum, a task force met to identify specific concerns. Committees were formed to address needs for:

A temporary home

A permanent facility

Financing in the form of grants.

All groups were represented: the Boys & Girls Club, PenMet Parks, Mayor Kuhn’s office, Pierce County District 7 Council member Derek Young’s office and Senior Club members.

All recognized the dire straits the club is in and are dedicated to a resolution that benefits all seniors.

Contact Lilienthal at betty-lilienthal@hotmail.com or 253-857-2426.

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