SERVING THE COMMUNITY~The Russellville Community Activity Center

Written by Pat Taylor

Many people in our community have the erroneous idea that the Senior Activity Center is only for those over 60. The truth is, this establishment provides many other services to our area!

The center’s facility has a large cafeteria in which organizations can hold meetings or dinners. Some of the activities the center provides to the community as a whole are catering of the Republican Women’s Annual Ronald Reagan’s Day Dinner. (This year the speaker was Mrs. Mitt Romney!)

Friendship Community Care Center’s Consumer Thanksgiving Dinner, a dinner for the clients of Friendship and their families, was hosted at the Senior Center. Russellville’s annual Health Fair was held at the Center this year and is planned again in the future.

The everyday concept of the Center is the same as for most Senior Centers — it is to provide services to seniors that enhance their quality of life. But Director Sherrie Tidwell’s attitude goes far beyond the call of duty. Her heart, as told to me, is that, “If I can go home everyday and feel that I have made someone’s life better, then I feel that I have done a good job.”

The Center that graces Russellville on Russell Road today was built in 2003. The previous building was located near the Employment Security Division. Having only one room, that building had become inadequate to serve the community as a Senior Center.

”It didn’t have enough facilities to provide the services we wanted to provide, including the fact that it lacked a kitchen, which was necessary for ‘Meals on Wheels.’” said Sherrie.

“And, with the increase of Baby Boomers we wanted to be able to provide even more services to attract the younger seniors, besides being able to provide the ‘Meals On Wheels’ to the older, frailer, population.”

The Senior Activity Center provides four services to seniors: a congregate meal, transportation to special events, Meals on Wheels, and socialization. There are nine full-time staff members and part-time staff members. In addition, there are over 100 volunteers that do extra service for the Center.

The facilities include a computer room, with free Internet access, a large library and conference room, a craft room, a billiard/ party room, and a well-equipped exercise room, besides the spacious cafeteria.

Dana Oldenstadt who is the head cook for the Center (providing an average of 400 meals every day!) receives praises for her excellent cooking.

Not only are the meals delicious, but extremely varied, with unexpected delights showing up several times a week. Dana grew up in a large family where her mother needed help, so her brothers learned to appreciate her cooking and baking skills.

“That was the beginning of a life-long love,” said Dana. Having tried other careers, and managed and owned cafes in Texas, she always came back to cooking. She started studying special diets and nutrition more than 20 years ago.

“Feeding others is pure joy! If I can make others happy why would I do anything else?” Unfortunately, another misconception many people have is that only seniors can eat at the center; but the fact is that anyone can eat there. The only difference is that instead of the mere $2 that seniors pay, the charge for the younger population is $5.

And take it from someone that eats there every day, you won’t find such a delicious meal this inexpensively anywhere else!

Many other activities are provided for those who use the facilities. An oil-painting class meets on Mondays. There is a Tai-Chi exercise class that meets every Tuesday in the cafeteria at 1 p.m. There are craft groups that meet every week, and that includes a crochet and knitting group.

The Senior Center Van provides trips to various activities — too numerous to mention. One of the recent activities included a trip into Northern Arkansas to see the elk population.

The Center is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Many agree that the River Valley is very fortunate to have such a useful establishment in the community!

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Category: Community, Features

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