For the first time in 18 months, Battle Ground residents gathered at the senior center on July 12, with help from the Senior Advisory Board.
More than 30 participants showed up at the center, 116 NE Third Ave, and were served Subway sandwiches, said Sharon Wodtke, Senior Advisory Board vice president.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down both the community and senior centers, many older residents felt lost, Wodtke said.
“The lives of the seniors in Battle Ground were absolutely shattered,” she said.
The four officers on the board felt a sense of responsibility to keep their community members connected.
The officers pooled their resources together to create drive-thru events hosted every other month, Wodtke said. Members could drive to Kiwanis Park in Battle Ground, pick up their gifts and chat for a short while in their socially distanced cars.
“We wanted to get (our members) out of their houses to tell them that we still remember them and we still care for them,” she said.
A 30 to 35 person roster quickly turned into 80 by word of mouth, Wodtke said. The drive-thru events were a way to spread awareness about the senior center programs for newcomers looking to meet new people.
The board put together Christmas stockings and Easter baskets, Wodtke said. Those interested could also pick up a backpack related to the theme “take me out to the ball game.”
While the Battle Ground Community Center started its “soft opening” this month, the board decided to shift programming to the original senior center building.
“We’re flying by the seat of our pants to pull some of these things off,” Wodtke said.
Members kicked off the first bunko program on July 16. Those interested can play from 1 to 3 p.m. every third Friday at the senior center. All programs are open to the public.
Due to health precautions, the board moved senior meals from five days a week at the Battle Ground Community Center to once a month at the senior center. Doors open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every second Monday.
Participants can receive a bagged lunch, try their luck with a game of bingo and enter to win a raffle, Wodtke said.
Seniors can also participate in the center’s craft club from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every third Monday starting Sept. 20. A new craft is created every month and is free for participants.
Before the pandemic, the group would meet once a month for a potluck meal, but Wodtke suspects it will be a couple of months before the tradition can start again.
The Senior Advisory Board accepts donations for the meals they host.
The Mad Hatters Club provided women who were in their 60s or older a chance to meet other members at a different Battle Ground restaurant each month, she said. The group was founded about 12 years ago by Debbi Hanson, former Battle Ground Parks and Recreation director.
Meetings will start up again in August with the first scheduled for 11:30 a.m. every second Friday of the month. Participants purchase the meals with their own funds.
Members will visit Rocky’s Pizza in August, Happy Family Restaurant in September and Old Town Burger and Breakfast in October.
Wodtke remembers hearing some of the original founders speak about the third street senior center and how the group operated before the Battle Ground Community Center was built in the early 2000s.
“The seniors were excited about a brand new building,” she said. “They could spend all day there if they wanted to.”
Many of the members dedicated time and personal funds while some wrote grants in the 1970s to establish a center built on city property, Wodtke said.
The founders kept the building running even after the new community center was constructed.
“The community center became their life,” she said. “They would show up at 9 a.m. and the coffee pot would be on. They might have joined an exercise group or they might have played cards in the corner.”