Community Center offers programs, services, and friendship
The Colony Community Center couldn’t be more aptly named. While its patrons are primarily senior citizens who enjoy the wealth of available programs and services, the core function of the facility is about building and maintaining a sense of community.
Diana Holland has been the Community Center Coordinator for almost 11 years. She’s seen a lot of changes during her tenure but also much that has stayed the same – especially the habits of her customers.
“We have some people who come just for one program or activity and they’re always here for it,” she said. “But we have others that come and stay all day. It’s just a matter of what they’re interested in and what works best for them.”
Popular programs include Chair Volleyball, Chair Exercise, Line Dance, Tai Chi, Pickin’ & Grinnin’ jam sessions, and the Fun Time Bike Riders, to name a few. The Center also offers daily lunches and transportation through the Special Programs for Aging Needs (SPAN) of Denton County.
But you don’t need to attend a class in order to spend time at the Community Center. Maybe there’s a card game to join. Or, patrons can use the computer lab, shoot a game of pool, or play on the new Lucky Pucks table.
“People can just show up and hang out,” Holland said. “The seniors that come on the SPAN bus and many that drive themselves might otherwise be home alone all day, but coming to the center provides them with socialization, exercise opportunities and a meal at lunchtime if desired. It’s very rewarding to see them laughing and having a good time.”
The Community Center currently boasts a paid annual membership of 578. Some have lived here a long time. Some are the parents of local residents who moved here to be closer to their family. Some have lost a spouse yet still feel comfortable coming to the Center to spend time and gain support from their friends.
Some are couples, like Mike and Patty Dunkle. Originally from Pennsylvania, they moved to The Colony about five years ago. Their son has lived here for 25 years. For the Dunkles, however, it was more than a desire for fellowship that spurred active involvement in the Center.
In August 2014 as they were walking in a parking lot near SH 121 and Paige Road, Patty was hit head-on by a car, seriously injuring her leg. Emergency personnel shut down 121 at Josey Lane so a helicopter could land and transport her to Baylor Hospital in Dallas where surgeons were able to save her leg.
She spent the next two months in a wheelchair with a large boot on her leg. By December she was doing rehab and graduated from the wheelchair to a walker to a cane. As an extension of her rehab, Patty soon resumed her attendance at one of the Center’s exercise classes.
The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program meets at 9:15 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s not just for people suffering from arthritis. The exercises are tailored to each individual’s needs. The Dunkles attend twice a week, with the blessing of her doctor.
“After a while, I got to walking around the house without a cane. They helped me so much here. The Community Center has been very good to us,” Patty said. “They do quite a lot for everybody I know. And we’ve met all these people, and that’s nice to have more friends.
“So many people have different things wrong with them. We’re not the only ones. Everybody helps each other with certain problems. You get to talking and you learn, ‘Oh, I have that, too!’ It’s been wonderful for us. We really appreciate the Community Center.”
Mike said there are roughly 30 people in the exercise class. “We’re on a first-name basis with most of them. We’ve gained so many friends but unfortunately we’ve lost a couple friends, too, because there’s a higher call.”
Losing members is the hardest part about working at the Community Center, Holland said. But Patty’s nine-month journey from the accident to walking without a cane is “pretty miraculous considering at first they weren’t sure they could save her foot or if she’d be forever confined to a wheelchair. She kept proving them all wrong.”
In addition to the exercise class, the Dunkles have also gone on some of the Center’s day trips to sights around the D-FW Metroplex. The seniors’ next outing is to the Dallas World Aquarium on March 21, for example, with upcoming outings scheduled to the Dallas Arboretum, a Frisco RoughRiders game, and the Garland Summer Musicals. In August, Holland is leading a group on a one-week trip to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and other attractions.
“People feel safer traveling if they’re with friends, in a group, and if there’s someone they know they can call if they need anything,” she said.
Much of the Center’s success is thanks to the many volunteers who are also patrons. During Bingo, for example, volunteers help with set-up, card verification, and trash collection. Even some of the classes, such as the Tangled Roots genealogy class taught by resident Alyce Rufi, are led by volunteers. Rufi was recently named the Volunteer of the Month for March.
“We could not operate without the volunteers. They provide so much help,” Holland said. “I even have a list on the bulletin board that shows how much volunteers do here.”
The Center is also supported by the Senior Citizens of The Colony, a non-profit that functions as a charitable organization for Center members. They sponsor the covered-dish dinners, organize parties, and conduct donation drives benefiting food banks at local churches. The Seniors also recently purchased two new shelving units for the Center.
Management of the facility’s space is a big concern for Holland. As the city has grown, so has the Center’s membership. They recently moved the computer lab to make room for another much-needed classroom. The Chair Volleyball class has spilled over into the adjacent Recreation Center. The exercise and line dancing classes are at capacity.
“We’re growing rapidly right now. We just hope we can keep up,” Holland said. While the Center has already come a long way since its inception in the old trailer behind the Government Center on Main Street, “our goal is to be busting out of the seams in this building, too.”
The annual resident fee for membership is $10; $15 for residents with additional access to the Recreation Center’s fitness room; $18 for non-residents; $25 for non-residents and fitness; or $2 per day. At one time it was officially called the Senior Center but was later renamed to emphasize the facility’s rental availability on weekends for private parties and church groups.
There was initial resistance to the new name, Holland said, but everyone has learned to embrace it – just as she embraces the rewarding nature of her job.
“I love working with the seniors. When you have someone come up and say, ‘I’m just so glad I could be here today. I don’t have to sit and just watch TV,’ that makes you feel good,” Holland said. “But more than that, everyone has each other for support. They find each other and depend on each other.”
For more information about what’s happening at the Community Center, call 972-624-2246.