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Woodburn Senior Center serves many local seniors out of Methodist church but is low on funding

LINDSAY KEEFER - Local seniors take part in a bingo game on a Thursday afternoon at the Woodburn Senior Center, located in the Woodburn United Methodist Church.From tai chi to bingo, the Woodburn Senior Center offers a variety of programs for local seniors. But most importantly, it provides friendship.

One in three U.S. adults 45 and older is lonely, according to a recent survey by AARP Foundation, and the number is increasing.

Woodburn Senior Center is trying to help with that.

"I started coming a year ago in July after I had depression and ended up hospitalized," said Lee Howe. "When I came out I knew I needed (companionship). Coming here has been very uplifting. There's always someone to listen."

Teresa Everest echoed the sentiment that the senior center is a welcoming place.

"You can come on good days or on bad days and they'll lift you up," she said. "There's no condemnation; it's a lot of sharing and caring."

While it's a haven of sorts for its dozens of members, it's not always easy to make ends meet, according to Director Connie Lum.LINDSAY KEEFER - Connie Lum, Woodburn Senior Center director

The senior center leases a room at the Woodburn United Methodist Church on Cascade Drive, and they're allowed to use other rooms for certain activities if the church isn't using it.

"Part of why we're fundraising is so we can participate in the upkeep of the building," Lum said. "We'd like to eventually use more space."

Lum's daughter helped her set up a GoFundMe page with $50,000 set as the goal.

"I set it at that because then we can get a van," she said. "I can't tell you how many phone calls I get for people who need rides to get here. We want to make sure we're available to those people."

The center also raises money through bake sales and by selling crafts at the church's holiday bazaar.

"I spent all of last year talking to local service organizations," Lum said, noting that Lions and Rotary clubs have supported the center.

While funds are needed, Lum said the center has gotten support from various places. The popular Wednesday lunches feature a guest speaker and often donated food from local businesses, including Cascade Park, Country Meadows, Heartwood Place and Emerald Gardens.

The center also gets help serving lunches from Bridges, the Woodburn School District's transitions program for 18- to 21-year-olds with special needs.

"I love the fact that they're learning and they're happy to be here," Lum said.

Members are encouraged to donate $3 for lunch, "but nobody checks."

In fact, seniors are only charged $15 a year for membership.

"A lot of them can't even afford that," Lum said. "We want to make sure if they need a place to come, then they know we're here."

Lum has been involved in the discussions regarding a future community center downtown.

"I've told them what needs we have," Lum said. "But honestly, it's going to take a long time. I probably won't be here to see it come to fruition."

In the meantime, the Methodist church is perfect in that it's a quiet location with plenty of parking.

"If I had a couple million dollars I'd buy this building," she laughed.

It's been four years since the Methodist church worked out an agreement with the senior center. A few years before that, seniors met at First Presbyterian Church, where Meals on Wheels still operates.

While it's hard to measure how many people darken the door of the center during an average week, Lum said 300 signed in during the month of October, participating in fitness classes, arts and crafts, a writing group, bingo, card games and Wednesday lunches. And they come from all over, from Woodburn Estates to Silverton to Hubbard to even one woman from Nevada who drops in when visiting her son who lives locally.

"This is the highlight of my week," Ron Hannon said.

The Woodburn Senior Center, which is not only looking for donations but also for volunteers and members, is at 700 N. Cascade Drive and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To support the center financially, visit www.gofundme.com/Woodburn-senior-center.

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