BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Mena/Polk County Senior Center celebrated their 41st Anniversary on Tuesday, August 16. The Center is the livelihood of hundreds of seniors around the county as they gather to, not only eat a delicious, healthy meal, but also to fellowship, exercise, and play games, as many have done for four decades.
Longtime supporter and former Executive Director Dene Tillman was on hand to give the history of the Center, which was established on August 18, 1975 in the old Frady Hotel that sits across from the Mena Depot. Back then, they served 65 meals a day.
It was later moved to where the Branding Iron now sits. While in that building, it was called the Son Light Center. Tillman explained that it didn’t take long before they knew they had outgrown that building and needed a new one. That’s when Tillman began fundraising efforts.
Steve Oglesby, who was a State Representative at the time, was approached by Tillman who requested state funding for a new center. Oglesby called Tillman, “the lady behind it all.” He was able to send a bill through that passed and allowed funding to be released for the construction of a new senior center in Mena.
After more fundraising and a lot of work, the Mena/Polk County Senior Center was opened in 2000. The new 12,000 sq. ft. building cost $1.6 million and houses a dining hall large enough for 350 people, a stage, a small library, and separate activity rooms for puzzles, dominoes, pool, and more.
Current Executive Director Sara Holliday said the Center offers morning coffee, daily activities, and smiling faces. The Center gives many of the County’s older generation something to look forward to Monday through Friday. On average, the Center serves one hundred people inside the facilities and up to 100 meals per day are home delivered. The Center delivers twice per month to homes outside of town, giving those clients fourteen frozen meals at a time, totaling 200 meals on each of those trips. They also provide transportation to and from the center each day, to local stores twice a week, and to doctor’s offices.
“I want folks to come see us and enjoy all that we have to offer,” Holliday said. “It’s therapeutic to just come and sit and enjoy each other’s company.” Tillman said, “We have a lot of history and a lot to be proud of.”