A place to play
Lowell Center celebrates 40 years
By Kyra Jagodzinski
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – After years of playing cards in any place they could find, Pete Bymers, Oscar Hartman, Herman Arendt, and Art Payne dreamt of creating a space for seniors of the Wisconsin Rapids area to gather and play cards.
Although this idea would first come to fruition in 1964, their concept would become a reality 18 years later, when the group created the “Wisconsin Rapids Area Senior Center Association, Inc.” to give senior residents of central Wisconsin a place to meet together to chat, play games, and most importantly—play cards.
The group that originally met in the basement of the Eagles Club eventually grew to the first floor of the Lowell School on Eighth Avenue South, Grand Rapids.
As the Lowell Center continued to grow, it moved to their current location on Third Avenue South, rooming with the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin and the Park Place Adult Day Service. With all three important senior services in one space, all three organizations were able to further impact the senior citizens who resided in the area.
“The Lowell Center offers multiple activities and programs for seniors age 50 plus in the Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding areas… including exercise classes, arts and crafts projects, card playing groups, book club, and garden club,” all of which contribute to maintaining the atmosphere of the center, Lowell Center’s Program Coordinator Joan Kranig emphasized.
In addition to the in-house programs the Lowell Center offers, they also offer evidence-based programs with the Wood County Extension office through the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Other offerings include: Senior Prom, which the Lowell Center collaborates with Our House Senior Living to put on for residents.
Kranig said that “day bus trips are also offered through the year to various venues within the state, and (the Lowell Center is) also willing to offer something new and exciting.”
After 38 years of service to the community, the Lowell Center was shut down for a year from April 2020 to April 2021 due to the COVID-19 environment. Determined to continue their assistance to seniors, the Lowell Center found ways to serve the members through other members—ones where meeting in-person were not necessary.
Kranig remembers how “party-line bingo was created and played on a conference call, (the Center) had “drive-thru” parties and handed out at-home activity bags to those who attended.”
The center is now back to full programming and attendance is continuing to increase as senior citizens slowly begin to feel comfortable with being around larger groups of people again.
The Lowell Center’s current location on Third Avenue South was built by Altman Construction, and received the Projects of Distinction Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors – Wisconsin Chapter.
The center continues to upgrade their location annually, with some of the more recent additions including an outdoor patio with a raised garden area along Third Avenue.
The garden area was able to be completed with help from the Centers Garden Club, who plants vegetables in the spring and harvests them for the seniors to take home and eat, and with other volunteers.
To continue their work in the community, the Lowell Center relies on the help from local volunteers. With over 90 volunteers and a total of 7,500 combined hours of volunteer work annually, the Lowell Center gives much of its credit to their volunteers.
Some volunteers handle front desk reception while greeting visitors, while others assist in the tax preparation process through the AARP Foundation program. The Lowell Center and its volunteers continue their work in the community and new members are always welcome to stop by the center to take a tour.
In honor of their 40th Anniversary, the Lowell Center will host an open house on April 1, 2-4 p.m. Long-time members of the center, Carol Bret and Maynard Paterick, will be guest speakers at the event, along with Mayor Shane Blazer.
“The Lowell Center’s Senior Sing Along Group will provide a short entertainment of music, and door prizes will be awarded to those present at the event when refreshments are served,” Kranig added.
The public is invited to attend the event to learn more about the history of the Lowell Center and what is offered, and adults aged 50 and older are welcome to participate in an event or two, found on the Lowell Center’s calendar on their website, and take a tour of the facility.