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Kalispell Senior Center marks half-century of togetherness

October 2, 2018

In downtown Kalispell there’s a place that’s routinely full of people - people laughing, playing games and catching up, people who make the place “a lively, exciting building to be in every day,” according to Flathead County Agency on Aging Director Lisa Sheppard.

It’s the Kalispell Senior Center, which was established 50 years ago this year. Last Thursday, more than 100 seniors attended a gathering at the center - now housed at the county’s South Campus Building - to celebrate the anniversary with cake, good friends and several scrapbooks of material pulled from the center’s archives.

The senior center, which serves as a hub for games, movies, exercise and wellness classes, charitable giving and just relaxed socializing, was established on Oct. 6, 1968, in Kalispell. The club was open to seniors in Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Somers and surrounding areas, and membership dues were originally 25, prorated over the course of the year. In terms of activities, “we’re overflowing,” board Vice President Gerri Backes noted.

Backes has been a member for about five years, and said she was surprised to learn about the center’s focus on long trips in its early days.

“Dances were their big thing [back then]...the thing that surprised me is that they were focused on [longer trips], while we have changed our goals,” she said, pointing to the center’s charitable efforts. “We’re reaching out to community members and giving back to the community.”

The center currently is collecting warm clothing for its winter warm-up drive, and maintains a network of knitters and quilters who donate time and materials.

But the heart of the center remains its social network of fellow Flathead seniors.

“It’s not for seriousness - it’s just the sociability and the fun,” Backes said.

“It’s just nice, for me and I think others, too, to sit and visit,” Penne reiterated. “Our friends are here.”

Reporter Adrian Horton can be reached at 758-4439 or at ahorton@dailyinterlake.com.

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