Precisely at 11 a.m. on Oct. 2, Theresa Thornton, the Tigard Senior Center’s home-delivery manager, tore off the “Closed” sign on the front door as the center officially opened for its first lunch in 3 ½ years.
The scene that unfolded over the next 1 ½ hours was like the first day of school when kids haven’t seen each other all summer. Seniors greeted each other (and this reporter) with hugs and caught up on news and families, and yes, they also enjoyed the lunch featuring an entree of barbecue chicken.
The opening was a huge event in the lives of area seniors because the center closed when nearly everything shut down in the spring of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, when life started returning to normal, and facilities, including area senior centers, opened up, the Tigard center, which is operated by the Meals on Wheels People, remained closed because of the construction of the Alongside Senior Apartments (See Sidebar) literally feet from the front entrance.
So it has been a long wait for these seniors, some of whom in the past only came for lunch while others participated in the programs and classes offered there, volunteered or served on the Advisory Board.
Nicole Hubbard, the Tigard center program manager, said that the staff had been gearing up for the re-opening for weeks. She and Thornton invited Advisory Board members over for coffee and donuts to discuss the opening the week before the first meal was served, according to Marilyn Sturm, who was involved in the planning of the opening and started volunteering at the center when she retired in 1995.
“For two weeks, we were doing a major rubdown and deep cleaning to get ready for the public,” Hubbard said. “We are starting with lunch two days a week (Monday and Wednesday) and will be looking at expanding the meal program and adding classes and programs as we get more volunteers. We are doing our best on recruitment. It left a huge hole in the community when it closed.”
As the seniors started arriving, they were all excited to be back. Sharon Capps said, “I started working in the kitchen in 2013 and volunteered. Now I’m just volunteering. I came back and volunteered with the home-delivery program (which kept running during the Covid-19 shut-down).”
Krista Toppf, who was an active participant at the center before it shut down, said, “It has been a long time. I have missed it a lot.”
Toppf was active in the quilting group at the center, which shifted to Northwest Christian Church next door during the shut-down. “One of our members is a member of the church, and she saw a flyer about the center reopening last week,” Toppf said. “It is so wonderful to see people back.”
One senior said, “This center is coming alive right before our eyes.”
Cleo McCloud said, “I was a regular and used to volunteer. I just want to say how nice it looks,” and Maggie Witty added, “I had to come back today. I missed it.”
Volunteer Myrna Boyce, who periodically sat down and played old favorites on the piano in the dining room, said, “I missed it. I heard it was opening from Theresa. I said to heck with my schedule.”
A woman by the name of Barney (“like the dinosaur”) Quinton said she missed all the hugs. “I started coming here in 2006 for exercise and the computer class,” she said. “I think I’ve taken everything they offered. I liked to pick up the books. I love the senior center.”
In all, about two dozen people showed up for lunch, and finally it was time. Hubbard took a deep breath, took out the microphone and announced that lunch was served. “Welcome,” she said. “We will eat assembly-style. I will call out table numbers, and you can line up and pick up your trays and go down the buffet line.”
Volunteers stood ready to pass out the different parts of the lunch, which everyone enjoyed but probably not as much as they enjoyed the company and conversation.
It was good to be back.
The Tigard Senior Center is located at 8815 S.W. Omara St.; for more information or to volunteer, call 503-620-4613 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alongside Senior Apartments
Talk about good timing: The Alongside Senior Apartments, located just steps from the Tigard Senior Center, was officially ready for occupancy Sept. 27, less than a week before the senior center reopened. The beautiful lobby features a natural-gas fireplace.
The four-story building, located “alongside” the senior center, has 57 one-bedroom apartments, according to the manager, Jan Crenshaw. They range in size from 590 to 640 square feet and are available to seniors age 62 and older. Rents range from $1,033 to $1,050.
“Thirty are filled, and we still have a few available,” Crenshaw said Oct. 2. “Twenty-three are set aside for Washington County to fill based on income, and there is a waiting list of several years for those.”
She added that people living in the apartments must be “totally independent.” Laundry services are available only on the first floor.
The Alongside Senior Apartments are located at 8805 S.W. Omara St., Tigard. For more information, call 971-448-1896.