You, who are senior citizens probably remember the famous song, “We’ll Have These Moments to Remember,” by the popular crooners of our day. Visiting in the Iowa Senior Center is definitely one of those moments [times] to remember. Located in the Iowa Outlet Mall the spacious center is neat, cheery and well maintained. Jessie Kelly is in charge but it is hard to tell who runs the place. Proud of her group, she jokes about “being well trained by the members”. There for less than two years it is hard to imagine her not being here all the while. She knows her people and listens to them, continuing to find fun and interesting activities they all enjoy. Taking their ideas to mix with her experiences makes for a successful program.
Jessie praises Calcasieu Council on Aging, CCOA and the community for supporting her in her work, which she says is not like a job at all. “It’s more like visiting with family. The members have taken me in as one of them,” she quips. Jessie worked for years in California. Moving her way down to Iowa via jobs in Winnfield and Alexandria, to a law firm in Sulphur and learning that Iowa is really pronounced ‘I –Way’.
In the morning at 7:30, strong dark coffee begins brewing to start the day which will bring together longtime friends and some new ones too. By 11:30 AM, closing time, everyone knows everyone else. On the day I was there Regina Leblanc told me, “This is my first time to come here”. She and Florence Roy, bustling around, arm in arm having no clue that Regina had never been here before.
When I asked her why come here? Regina said, “I was bored and lonesome at home alone”. Florence added, “Regina and I were recently widowed and I come here to know what’s going on. It is evident that she is ‘in the know’ not only about the attributes of Jessie Kelly but also about the many aspects of the program. She doesn’t blow her own horn or sing her praises but she does a lot”, Florence says about Jessie. Inez Maynor, the quilt coordinator chimed in her agreement from her chair at the sewing machine. Members each contribute a block for this quilt to be raffled. The proceeds will be used to fund activities.
“A wreath making class is coming up soon. Members are asked to RSVP so that supplies will be available for participants”, Jesse said. Merle Brown showed a beautifully made baby blanket and bib she and other members sewed and crocheted together for one member’s grandson. Jennie Cormier said, ““Two years ago, my doctor told me to come to this center. My husband, Nathan decided to investigate for himself. We liked what we saw so we kept on coming.” Now they are regular participants of the program and help out with whatever needs to be done. Roberta and Kenneth Bourgeois are another couple that are regulars. Roberta says “We enjoy meeting people and appreciate the good lunches served here every day”.
On Wednesdays, breakfast is funded by the center. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Bingo and Pokeno are the main activities where folks chat while they keep a close eye on their cards. “The food, coffee and prizes for the games come from the generosity of many donors,” Jessie says. Also Latasha Bellow from MMO Behavioral Health Systems in Jennings comes in, brings prizes and calls the Bingo. She also offers her services to anyone who wants counseling. At lunch a meal is provided to those who have pre-registered. Zannie Leger the nutrition manager is on hand to see that all goes smoothly. He also tidies up as he visits with everyone.
All were enthusiastic about recent activities like the sing a longs. Jessie plays several instruments and often brings her banjo, guitar, mandolin or Dulcimer. All are welcome to bring instruments and play and sing songs of their past. The old fashioned day where everyone dresses from the 40’s and 50’s are a big hit. They share music, food and memories from ‘the good ole days’. “Remembering Mom,” is a game where each tries to recognize each other’s mother from photos and a memento is said to make it lots of fun.
Dominos and bean bag baseball are favorites here too. The bean bag baseball team of players, which stays in shape, were rewarded for their efforts by being declared first place winners for two years in a row at the annual Senior Olympics. While they enjoy their own activities, they stay in touch with their neighbors at the Welsh Nursing Home. They call bingo, make lap robes and adult bibs for them, and give out ditty bags filled with items used in daily hygiene. They also make carriers to fit on walkers to carry possessions leaving the resident’s hands free to maneuver their walkers. The sheriff department and CCOA regularly sponsor senior days at the Community center on Hwy 90. These events are usually held from 10 AM to 2 PM and include a hot meal and nice prizes. These are well attended by many seniors in the area. The group from the center enjoy a longer day together at these functions and invite everyone there to join them at the center.
While Jessie and the seniors in the Iowa Center have many wonderful moments to cherish, they aren’t content to stop there. They live each day to the fullest, continuing to add memories and moments to recall in the future. Jessie and her friends in Iowa extend an invitation to their senior friends to join them at the center and share their happy moments too.
By Joyce R. Kebodeaux