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Park Rapids Senior Center an active place

The card game “Hand and Foot” was played by, from left, Martha Moe, RoJean Cummins, Kay Larson and Connie Pieper. Studies have shown that seniors who are socially active are healthier. Photos by Lorie Skarpness/Enterprise. 1 / 2
Known as the “Chess Boys,” Mike Peterson, Jim Nemzek and Tom Magoris enjoy a friendly competition at the senior center while sipping bottles of root beer.2 / 2

Everyone is welcome at the Park Rapids Senior Center.

Just ask Dorothy Eckhoff of Long Lost Lake, south of Bagley.

"I had a dentist appointment on Halloween, saw the senior citizen building and went in to see if they had crafts," she said. "They were so wonderful. I had a delicious bowl of chili and a great bar and everyone was so friendly. I'm going to make a point to come back and see them when I'm in town again."

The coffee is always on, and sometimes members bring treats.

"When someone has a birthday, I try to make a cake and bring flowers," senior center vice president Ruth Helgren said.

Located at 102 2nd St. W. in Park Rapids, a block off Hwy. 71 South, the senior center building is decorated for the season inside and out. A wall contains pictures of all of the members. Whether sharing a meal or playing a game of cards or checkers, there is much conversation and laughter.

The chili was furnished by the Stacked High Deli in Park Rapids. Owners Al Kurth and John Harsha have been donating soup to the senior center since the deli opened in June. It used to be a Thursday treat for the seniors. Now that the center is on winter hours, they bring fresh soup around noon on Wednesdays. It might be wild rice and walleye, French onion, potato or tomato basil, and is something the seniors look forward to each week.

"They've been the best friends the senior center has had," Helgren said. "They came over one day and asked us if we wanted soup, and it has just been ongoing. They took us on and help us whenever they can."

"We just wanted to do something nice for the community," Harsha explained. "We enjoy doing it, and make sure we have extra soup just to take over there."

During the summer when the senior center members play bridge on Thursdays, there were up to 50 people savoring the homemade soup.

Harsha said that he has known Helgren since he was really little. "Ruthann was my grandmother Marvel Reko's best friend," he said. "Bob Helgren was one of my teachers, and he was in the car club with my dad. When Ruthann and Connie Carmichael were redoing the senior center, I was over there helping them move chairs and appliances."

The senior center kitchen cannot be used to prepare meals because it needs to be updated.

According to the National Institute on Aging, several research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults and have suggested that social isolation may have significant adverse effects.

The center hosts many activities each month including bridge, whist, pinochle, Mah Jongg and chess. A complete schedule of activities is on their website, Anyone 55 and older may join. The senior center is open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The senior center also gives back to the community. They are once again adopting a Toys for Girls and Boys and Tiny Tots family, purchasing items to help a low-income family in the area have a happy Christmas.

Senior center members are also knitting or buying mittens, hats and scarves for the second annual Park Rapids Enterprise mitten tree. Items collected will decorate a tree in the Enterprise lobby, then be given to children in the community. Donations can be dropped off at the Park Rapids Enterprise beginning Nov. 26.

Yearly membership dues at the senior center are $15 for individuals and $25 for couples. Anyone interested in helping out at the senior center or joining activities can call Helgren at the senior center at 732-8612 during center hours or at home at 732-7427.