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Celebrate milestone anniversary with day filled with festivities at the Gresham Senior Center

OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - The Gresham Senior Center has been offering classes and services for 50 years. The Gresham Senior Center is celebrating a milestone anniversary in the best way possible — with a day filled with fun activities, tasty food, and classic hot rods.

Serving East Multnomah County since 1968, the Gresham Senior Center, 600 N.E. Eighth St., is celebrating its 50th anniversary Sunday, Oct. 14, with plenty of fun.

"We want people to see our facilities and learn about all the fun things that happen here at the center," said Terry Ann Pullen, program director.

In the parking lot there will be a car show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while inside a silent auction and garage sale will raise funds for the center and its many valuable programs for senior residents of Gresham. A raffle for a beautiful, handmade quilt by the Quilting Ladies of the Gresham Senior Center will be $5 a ticket or $20 for five.

Other raffles include a 50/50 that will happen throughout the day.

If you get hungry, the David Douglas High School's Dad's Club will whip up hamburgers and hot dogs to raise money for their school, and a bake sale will offer up lots of tasty treats. There will be balloons for kids and live music as well. And of course, no anniversary celebration would be complete without a cake.

Those worried about parking during the event have nothing to fear, as TriMet is letting people park in the parking structure across the street.

The Gresham Senior Center's mission is to provide opportunities for seniors to remain active in the community. It sponsors a wide variety of education, recreation and social programs. On an average day, the center welcomes more than 200 seniors aged 50 and older with classes, activities and companionship. For many, that is their only social connection to the larger Gresham community.

"Just because you are a senior doesn't mean you aren't vivacious and want to be around other people," Pullen said.

The Senior Center is located in the Ambleside Center of the East Multnomah County Building. To provide for the seniors, the group must pay for the building rental, daily operation expenses and office supplies. It is completely dependent on the efforts of the board and membership volunteers, donations and fundraisers.

That is why events such as the anniversary celebration are so important. The goal during the party is to raise $30,000, all of which will be used to support local seniors. The event is sponsored by Gresham Ford, Weston Kia, Tonkin Gresham Honda, PDX Car Culture and others, but the attendance and participation is where the center hopes to make the bulk of the funds.

"We hope after seeing what a good job we are doing, that people will want to help us stay open another 50 years," Pullen said.

For more information about the party, or to register your car, call Pullen at 503-988-9897. If you are unable to attend, donations to the center can be made by mail to 600 N.E. 8th St., Room 130, Gresham, OR, 97030.

You can also call the center at 503-988-4870 for other ways to give.

A history of helping

In the late 1960s, Gresham became concerned about the lack of options for seniors.

Spearheaded by religious, business and community leaders — the East Multnomah County Council on Aging was formed through a grant that also provided funds to run a senior center in 1965.

The new center was located on the corner of Main Avenue and Powell Boulevard, on the edge of downtown Gresham. The senior center provided social services who before had to travel all the way to downtown Portland for help.

In 1969, the Senior Center moved to its second home in a building owned and given free of charge by a former Gresham Mayor. With the added space, the center started hosting classes and dances. A local committee of 15, Gresham Seniors Untied, supervised the activities.

Meals started at the center in the beginning of 1971. They were prepared at Edgefield Manor, a now-closed nursing home in the Troutdale area, and then brought to the center. Meals on Wheels began a few years later, allowing the food to be sent to seniors unable to make their way to the center. The most popular events were the Wednesday Potlucks, when the normal food supply was unable to be delivered, often drawing 300 people.

In 1973, Multnomah County bought the building where the center was located and made some helpful changes. The county paid for a complete remodel of the building and gave the center more space on the ground floor. At the time, the center had 6,000 members and an eight member paid staff. Grant money from the county paid for the space, staff and operation costs. Gresham Seniors United paid for the activities and any extra things needed.

Around 1980, the Senior Center members decided to break away from the county. Government funding had dried up, and the Gresham Seniors United wanted to be an independent organization. The county still provided the building to the seniors free of charge until 1994, but everything was strictly run by volunteers.

The Senior Center shared the ground floor with Loaves and Fishes, who served meals at the center five days a week. The center had more than 25 classes, programs and health services each week, and more than 2,600 members.

In 2001, the center moved into the new county building being built on Eighth Street — where it is currently located. The new space at the Ambleside Center was the focal point for senior, disability and health services for the entire county. The county charges the Gresham Senior Center rent for the shared space at about $24,000 a year. The group is now partnered with four other organizations in the building — Meals on Wheels, Independent Living Resources, YWCA Aging Services and Aging and Disability Services.

For Gresham seniors, Ambleside has become a community area, with classrooms, a library and game lounge, teaching kitchen, exercise room and computer room.

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