By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – The Friends of the Shrewsbury Senior Center, Inc. began celebrating its 20th anniversary Sept. 15. It was the first of their monthly programs to include history of the organization’s founding, compiled from meeting minutes and shared by Louise Russell, the president.
“It’s important to know the history of the people that did all the work before you,” she said. “Each month through the year we’ll note a milestone. In September 1995, they had their first open house to invite everybody and explain what they did.”
Before the Shrewsbury Senior Center opened its current building at 98 Maple Ave. in 2000, seniors met at the former North Shore School on Parker Road and other locations, Russell noted.
“It’s interesting to read through the minutes about all the things they wanted to do, but had no place to do it,” she said. “We went to different places for meetings. If we expected a large crowd, there wasn’t room in the Parker Road building to meet.”
A topic discussed in the Friends early meeting minutes was seniors’ transportation needs.
“Back then, there was no transportation offered to seniors,” Russell said. “Now, we have a sophisticated system of transportation with the minibuses that run around all the time. We’ve found answers to the concerns they had 20 years ago.”
The Friends’ main mission is to fundraise to provide non-budgeted items and services for the senior center. They’ve secured grants for transportation and helped purchase a van.
Among other items the Friends helped purchase include a refrigerator, card tables for bridge players, and the replacement of most chairs in the major meeting room. They also refelted the pool table, and routinely tune the center’s piano and organ.
A longtime expense of the Friends has been the center’s monthly newsletter, The Senior Edition, which is mainly delivered by postal mail and distributed to senior facilities. It’s also sent to email subscribers. For many years, the Friends paid the cost of printing and postage.
“Last winter, for the first time, the council on aging (COA) voted to put the printing of the newsletter in their town budget,” Russell explained. “Now, the Friends just pay for the mailing.”
About 3,500 newsletters were postal mailed monthly in recent years. Now, 5,000 copies are printed, the majority of which are postal mailed.
“The increase in the number of people getting the newsletter is because we updated the list of everyone who had turned 60 in town,” Russell noted. “The newsletter is an important tool to reach everybody. We’re glad that we can include the younger seniors; hopefully, they’ll want to come and join us.”
The Friends program meets the third Tuesday of the month at 1 p.m. from September through June, and features a guest speaker or entertainment with light refreshments. On Oct. 20, Police Chief James Hester Jr. will speak. On Nov. 17, Jim and Marcia Smith will present a portrayal in period attire of Gen. and Mrs. Artemas Ward.
The value of these programs has been expressed to Russell by Sharon Yager, the COA director.
“Sharon has said how important it is for the Friends to do these social programs because the COA doesn’t have the money to do it,” Russell said. “These programs are open to everybody, so people feel comfortable attending. That’s one of the underlying benefits of what we do each month; to provide that outlet for people if they need or want it.”
Now in progress is the Friends annual Fall Basket Raffle. Over 30 baskets filled with donated items are displayed at the center. The drawing will be held at the Oct. 20 program. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the front desk, where Friends membership applications are also available.