What a difference 35 years has made to the Jacksonville Senior Center.
Once a group of 29, the center now boasts 1,300 members
First came the GALA club. The name was short for the Golden Age Leisure Activities club that was founded in 1973 by 29 area residents and 5 ministers. The group met twice a month at St. John's Lutheran Church, in Sweet Air.
In 1974, the group began meeting at Chestnut Grove Presbyterian Church.
On Sept. 28, 1979, the GALA club joined the Baltimore County Department of Aging's senior center programs and the Jacksonville Senior Center was born.
First the Jacksonville group relocated to the former U.S. Army Nike Missile Base at 3101 Papermill Road in Phoenix.
In 2010, the center moved to a new facility at 3605 Sweet Air Road in Phoenix where it remains today and where it is preparing to celebrate its 35th anniversary.
The anniversary celebration will take place on Monday, Sept. 22 — Sept. 28 is a Sunday — as the 22nd "worked best for everyone," said Barbara Franke, the center's director since 2002.
As part of the 35th anniversary celebration, Franke said, special guests will include previous directors and members of the Jacksonville Senior Center Council. A caricaturist will be on hand to draw free caricatures of members from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Popular keyboardist and local talent Josh Christina will entertain the entire community in the Sweet Air gym beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m. A crab cake luncheon will be available for $15 for those who preregister by Sept 8.
Moving the center to its current location on Sweet Air Road "gave it a rebirth," said Barbara Franke, the center's director since 2002.
Although members must be 60 or older to join, it has a youthful feel, she said.
The Phoenix facility, which is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., features a fitness center, multipurpose room with a kitchen, classrooms, and staff and council offices.
There is no fee for membership to the center but some classes and the fitness center do charge fees to participate.
Fitness programs at the center range from the traditional, such as yoga, to more contemporary pursuits such as line dancing, zumba and pickle ball.
According to Franke, Jacksonville is the only county senior center to offer pickle ball, a sport that's a cross between tennis and badminton that draws enthusiasts "from all over, including Pennsylvania."
Jacksonville's fitness center offers equipment to support strength training as well as cardio fitness. For a $60 annual fee members have unlimited use of the fitness center from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
"People are extremely active," Franke said. "They come and do their thing."
For information about joining the Jacksonville Senior Center or its anniversary celebration, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 410-887-8208.