Bemidji Senior Center celebrates recent remodel with open house
The Bemidji Senior Center held an open house celebrating the interior's remodel.
BEMIDJI — The Bemidji Senior Center held an open house on Jan. 28 to celebrate the remodeling of the interior, which included new paint, floors and appliances.
Dubbed a “facelift,” work on the redesign began in early 2020 following the creation of a committee to oversee and organize the project. Originally planned to simply update the old carpets and paint colors, the remodel grew in scope following community support and donations.
The project pushed on despite the difficulties caused in early 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic, which temporarily closed the senior center and limited the ability of volunteers to continue their work.
“We really wanted to update the place,” said Marcia Syverson, assistant manager at the center, who proudly described the effort the community put in to update the space.
Local contractors and volunteers put in countless hours to clean out the space, complete repairs and begin the refurbishment process.
Initial funding consisted of individual donations made by members of the senior center, as well as a donation made by the Bemidji Eagles Club. As the project continued, different stores and contractors also volunteered labor and supplies to help refurbish the center.
“We love volunteers,” Syverson said, “they’re just a really integral part of the senior center.”
After a member of the committee reached out to Home Depot, the company agreed to donate flooring, paint, cupboards, countertops and sinks to the Senior Center. By the project’s completion, their contribution totaled $17,000 dollars.
Other materials and pieces were provided by local groups and members of the Senior Center, such as wall art and new quilt display racks, which were crafted by Mark Lease specifically for the center.
The front entrance area, gift shop and dining area were all given a fresh coat of paint and redecorated. The new design is agreed by everyone who worked on it to be a much more welcoming space.
All of the work led up to the open house on Friday, which thanked all of those involved and celebrated the new interior.
The event included cookies, coffee and cider, and also served as the introduction of the senior center's new manager, Verna Lenker, who began late last year.
A space for community
The Senior Center provides a number of activities for a variety of age groups. These include live music, crafts, games and a monthly pancake breakfast which has gained a delicious reputation.
The center also schedules exercise and wellness activities, seasoned driver’s training and free tax help through AARP. Through partnering with Lutheran Social Services, the center also helps with Meals on Wheels, a program designed to tackle food insecurity and isolation in seniors.
But the most important service they provide, according to Syverson, is the ability to stay connected to other people.
“I really believe a community should have a senior center,” Syverson said. “It just gives you an opportunity to stay connected to your community.”
And Syverson explained that’s exactly what it has done for many seniors, especially those who are looking for friendship and companionship as they get older.
Judy Tobin, a senior center member who works at the gift shop, explained the importance of the center to her following the death of her husband.
“I retired from my job and my husband died a few months later, it was very difficult,” Tobin said. “I would come by the (gift) shop, and I slowly started working here, which was great. It is a cheerful, pleasant place to be.”
For Tobin and others, the senior center has been a place for belonging. Somewhere they are able to engage with their community, participate in activities and enjoy themselves.
“You don’t just wither away just because you’re retired,” Syverson said. “As you retire and get older, you still need companionship. That's what the senior center provides."