BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — The Maumee Senior Center recently marked a 25-year milestone in Maumee.
To celebrate the occasion, the center hosted an anniversary gala on July 17 with a special dinner and live entertainment provided by the Maumee Senior Center Singers. Local officials, including members of Maumee City Council and the mayor, were on hand along with David Wirt, the district director from OH-5 U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s office.
The gala was the first of many events taking place throughout the year in honor of the center’s silver jubilee.
“We are using the whole year to celebrate,” said Ardis Dardenne, a vice president of the Maumee Senior Center’s board of trustees and one of the center’s founders. “We’re going to have all kinds of special events this year that are over and above the things that we normally do.”
Those events include a high tea and jazz night, among other things.
Dardenne previously worked at a facility that provided services to seniors, which prompted her to begin the process of establishing senior programming in Maumee.
“I kind of got attached to that,” she said.
First running as a candidate for Maumee City Council on a platform of creating senior services, something that at the time, Maumee lacked, Dardenne says she was “lucky enough not to win.”
That experience did, however, allow Dardenne to work with former Maumee Mayor Harry Barlos, who upon his election win promised to establish a program for seniors in Maumee.
It took eight years, several meetings, surveys and discussions with city council members to finally get a program up and running.
Initially, the senior programming took place at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, but eventually the city purchased the building on South Detroit Avenue, investing more than $600,000 to purchase and remodel it into the current Maumee Senior Center. In July 1994, the center opened, and on August 7 that year, a ribbon-cutting and community open house took place.
“I’m very proud of it,” Dardenne said. “We have a good director, we have a very friendly staff and the city is very supportive of what we need, and I think that everything is going nicely.”
Over the years, the center has expanded both in programming and in size. A large activity room was added, along with new landscaping and upgrades to the outside garden and basement. In the fall, the center will be getting a new handicapped-accessible vehicle.
Longtime member Charmaine McClellan and late husband James, who passed away nine years ago, used to volunteer serving lunch at the center. For 16 years, the couple worked for the center daily, preparing the meals, which were then delivered to the center.
“That was our community service work,” she said.
No longer volunteering on a daily basis, McClellan takes several exercise classes each week and she serves on the advisory board. She also takes part in the many trips offered through the center.
“I love moving to music, so anything that involves that, I do,” she said. “I have to be out doing something. I don’t like sitting at home.”
There is a nominal annual fee to join the center; however, you do not have to be a member to take part in activities at the center. Through the years, membership has fluctuated with as many as 800 members. Today, the center maintains approximately 350 members; however, in May, more than 1,900 individuals took part in events at the center.
In addition to volunteers and a staff of six, a 10-member board oversees the center. While the center receives funds from the city of Maumee, from the Area Office of Aging and through a 3/4-percent senior levy state tax, a large portion comes from fundraising and donations.
“We still have to raise a lot of money to run these things,” said Dardenne. “Sometimes we have to charge a little fee.”
Malinda Ruble, who was named the center’s executive director in 2013, said that the center provides important opportunities and resources for everyone in the community and not just for seniors.
“We are trying to serve everybody’s needs,” Ruble said. “We are a great center and we have a lot of wonderful programs and services for everyone, but we are just trying to raise that a little bit more – that all ties together.”