Bemidji Senior Center celebrates recent remodel with open house

The Bemidji Senior Center held an open house celebrating the interior's remodel.

Marcia Syverson, assistant manager at the Bemidji Senior Center, shows off items in the Senior Creations Gift Shop on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

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.

Along with the rest of the Bemidji Senior Center, the coffee area also received a facelift with the recent renovations.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“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.

Quilt racks were added during recent renovations of the Bemidji Senior Center. Money was donated by the Modern Woodmen of America to purchase materials and labor was donated by Mark Lease.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

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.

Verna Lenkerl recently became the Center Manager at the Bemidji Senior Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

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.

Paintings and other pieces of artwork are for sale at the Senior Creations Gift Shop.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

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.

A wide variety of knitted and crocheted items are available in the Senior Creations Gift Shop.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

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."


A group plays Hand and Foot Canasta on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, at the Bemidji Senior Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
What To Read Next
For its 37th year of running, Tverstol along with 12 other student spellers competed in a total of 13 rounds involving words like “evaded,” “embrace” and “excited.”
The Bemidji Pioneer received 18 awards during the Minnesota Newspaper Association's 156th annual convention held Thursday in Brooklyn Park.
The administration is bringing back an Obama-era decision, later reversed by Trump, that bans new mineral leases on 225,500 acres of the Superior National Forest for the next two decades.
Marking the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, more than 150 people gathered at the Beltrami County courthouse on Saturday, Jan. 21, to participate in Bemidji's March for Life.