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Arbutus Senior Center marks five years

Arbutus Senior Center marks five years
Arbutus Senior Center members, from left, Carolyn Sheets, Judy Lombardi and Nova Traurig play bridge. (Staff photo by Heather Norris)

The Arbutus Senior Center is celebrating its five-year anniversary with a week's worth of events planned for members.

From a beach party to a magic show to a white wine tasting, members are invited to stop by any time between Aug. 17 to 21 to celebrate with center staff and volunteers.

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On Aug. 24, the date the facility opened five years ago, the celebration culminates with a lunch and cake provided by the Hubbard Funeral Home.

The success of the center over its first five years, said center director Susan Patry, has been due largely to the center's work with other community organizations.

"I think that people see us as a good community partner," she said, noting that the center at 855 Sulphur Spring Road, next door to the Arbutus Library, gets a lot of involvement from other local organizations in some of its programming.

On a recent Thursday morning, the senior center was filled with members playing cards and exercising.

Charlotte Ziolkowski said she might have been the first member to sign up when the center opened in 2010.

She stopped in to visit the center before it officially opened and signed up to volunteer at the front desk.

"My husband died that same year," she said, "and this has been a godsend for me."

Today, she has cut back on her volunteer hours, coming in only to substitute when needed, she said, but she's a regular at Thursday morning canasta games.

Mary Carper and Marlene Langdon started a games group soon after the center opened thatquickly morphed into solely canasta players, they said. On any given week, about a dozen members gather together to play in one of the center's recreation rooms.

"It's good for your brain" said Carper, who said she also belongs to the Catonsville Senior Center.

Langdon said she used to belong to the Catonsville center, but let her membership expire after joining the Arbutus Senior Center when it opened.

Arbutus residents Gary Kohlweiler and his wife, Gretchen Kohlweiler, both volunteer in multiple capacities at the senior center, including the travel office and the exercise room.

When their children were young, Gary Kohlweiler said he devoted a lot of time volunteering as a coach of various community sports teams. Now that he is retired and the couple's children are grown, he said, it made sense to find a new volunteer opportunity.

"I love it," Gretchen Kohlweiler said. "It's a wonderful group of people."

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The Thursday bridge club relocated their weekly game from the Rolling Road Golf Club to the Arbutus Senior Center when it opened, member Jean Robertson said.

"It's a great place," she said, adding that the lunch program and the easy parking made the center an idea location as members grew older.

Of the group of seven, only one bridge member resides in Arbutus. The rest live in Catonsville, Halethorpe or Ellicott City. The newness of the center, combined with the staff and volunteers, they said, is worth the trip.

Arbutus resident Ronald Beeman said he joined the center a little more than two years ago after he found out that he could find tax help there. Now. he's a regular volunteer in the center's kitchen, helping to prepare lunches and other meals for fellow members.

"I've had a very good time," he said.

Many of the center's members, Patry said, come to the center first for the use of the exercise room. From there, they become more involved, she said.

"The fitness center and the fitness activities are definitely a draw for the senior center," she said. "[It's] a nice way to bring people" in.

They're always open to input from members about programming, she said, and some of the programs bring in people from other agencies or companies to lead classes.

In the past, she said, faculty from the nearby Community College of Baltimore County have hosted exercise classes and staff from the Arbutus Library have taught members the technology skills needed to operate smart phones and computers.

Having worked in two other senior centers, both located in Baltimore City, before coming to Arbutus, Patry said the Arbutus center's membership sets it apart from other, similar facilities.

"There's a lot of couples here and a lot of younger seniors," she said. "I do try to program for everybody."

In the coming years, with an aging Baby Boomer population, Patry said she expects the center's membership to steadily increase.

Going forward, she said, her goal for the center is to attract those new seniors and to keep the programming fresh and relatable to her members.

For information about five-year anniversary activities, go to arbutusseniorcenter.org or stop by the center at 855A Sulphur Spring Road.

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