Community center offers activities and fellowship – Montevideo American News
Jessica Stolen-Jacobson Editor [email protected]
On Wednesday, May 4, members of the Montevideo Community Center are hosting a Meet & Greet Open House in hopes of showcasing all that the Community Center has to offer.
The community center, before the COVID-19 pandemic, had about 250 members. While the community center coordinator, Tracy Wellendorf, notes that not all members regularly participate in the activities offered. “A lot of them come here, and we have quite a few that I’ve never met. We have quite a few people who choose to be members who don’t come but they like that their friends can have a place to stay. go,” says Wellendorf. With a membership cost of just twenty dollars a year, the Community Center offers multiple daily activities. They have everything from hours of play for Farkle and Bingo, to educational opportunities, to clubs for reading, exercising, yoga, line dancing, knitting and crocheting and more.
One of the unique opportunities the community center offers is a support group called Happier Tomorrow. The group began when, at the start of the pandemic, Joan Cushman found herself recently widowed, feeling lonely and contemplating how many other people in town probably felt the same way. “I haven’t been to the Community Center for a long time. I was a caregiver. I thought there must be a couple hundred more in town like me and why couldn’t we form a band based on being alone,” Cushman explains.
With free time during the lockdown, she began to plan – making a list of activities and program ideas with the idea that the mission would be to foster connection while being able to be authentic themselves, all having loneliness in common. The goal of the group is to be therapeutic, not through specific therapies, but through recreation. “Later, I thought it wasn’t just grieving people, but anyone who felt lonely, bored, or basically single,” Cushman says. The group started last September and meets once a month for activities, coffee and conversation.
While the Wellendorf Community Center Coordinator is on hand to oversee day-to-day activities, she says she works harder to provide the opportunities, while ensuring that members and volunteers have the freedom to direct the programming. “Volunteers have collaborative and creative freedom to develop programs,” she says. Wellendorf also coordinates games, special events and trips through the community center. The community center also partners with local organizations, such as Prairie 5, the library, and community education to promote and plan events. They also work with small nonprofit clubs to provide low-cost meeting space. The members planned the open house because they collectively feel that the community does not know all that is offered at the community center and hope that others will be able to benefit from all the programs as they did. Sharing what was most important to them, they each noted the benefits of the particular activities they participate in.
For Dave Lauritsen, the community center has provided an outlet for running a book club he’s been running for 35 years now. The benefit of book club, he says, is that it inspires you to try something new. “The thing about a book club is that you’re asked to read a book outside of your comfort zone. “I had never read science fiction, but we did science fiction. Once we did poetry,” Lauritsen says. Marie Pederson adds: “What’s good is that you can say you don’t like it. A book club should be open to everyone’s ideas and opinions and you have every right to say I didn’t like that. Barb Pederson says coffee hour at the community center was a way for her to continue a tradition. “I brought my parents here for years so they could attend, and they both died, and I became a member of the band and continued that. It’s the people,” she said. “It’s part of our weekly ritual to come for coffee on Wednesday mornings and we look forward to visiting everyone and catching up. And then we play bingo almost every Friday. It gives us a couple Joan Cushman said the community center has helped her feel connected to her community again. “I was a caregiver for 20 years so I was out of the community and felt like someone from outer space,” she says.
Marie Pederson says it gives her the opportunity to exercise, but also to socialize. “I come to walk not because I like it, but because I wouldn’t do it at home without this place. I don’t walk three miles in my house. It’s that I do it with someone and we can talk and we can socialize,” she says. Mike Flemming says the yoga classes offered at the community center have been an invaluable tool for staying active with Parkinson’s. “I do yoga because it’s so beneficial to me with my Parkinson’s disease. It helps stretch your joints and muscles, and it has helped me a lot with my balance. It’s a great group that goes there and it’s open to everyone,” he said.
Marie Pederson also adds, “A community center should provide the community with a convenient and fun opportunity to stay in shape. It’s a part of the community and you feel good about giving back to the community. The Meet and Greet Open House begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4. Community center members and volunteers will be on hand with information materials on the benefits of all the various activities organized by the community center. There will also be a variety of door prizes.