On the surface, senior centers are all about getting seniors out of the house and doing things. And that’s good. But there’s a deeper service senior centers provide that’s succinctly captured in the slogan of the Enumclaw Senior Activity Center: “Where Strangers Become Friends.” Activities bring people in; friendship keeps them coming back.
With a small staff, the Enumclaw Senior Activity Center relies on the energy, drive, creativity and commitment of volunteers to support the wide variety of programs, activities and services offered. RSVP volunteers Lillian Popp and Pat Cinderich are two such volunteers.
Lillian began volunteering at the Center five years ago, after nursing her husband through a long illness. “I decided to do something for myself,” she says. Ironically, doing something for herself became volunteering at the Center and doing things for others. Jobyna Nickum, Senior Center Manager, describes Lillian this way: “Lillian Popp is an incredible woman…(she) will help in any way possible…What else can I say? We love her!” Lillian volunteers at the Center every day. “What’s there to do at home?” she asks.
Pat found her way to the Center four years ago after her last grandchild turned five and went to school. Pat, it seems, has an insatiable need to help others. “I just need to help someone,” she says. “Pat Cinderich is a hoot!” comments Jobyna.
“She is always willing to go the ‘extra smile’ [pun intended, I hope] to make the … Center a better place for the seniors of our community.” Describing her volunteering, Pat says, “I may not be able to do great things, but I can do small things in a great way.”
Lillian loves to cook. And with 45 years of experience as a professional cook (she owned her own restaurant in Seattle), she works in the kitchen to help with the Center’s lunch program, which feeds about 40 seniors a hot, nutritious and delicious meal Mondays through Fridays. She also cooks for the Neighbors Feeding Neighbors program, a home delivery service that has provided 4,000 meals since January. “Volunteering makes you get up, get out, and do things,” she says modestly.
For her part, Pat helps “wherever I can.” One of those wherevers is the Center’s Wii bowling league, which Pat organizes. Wii bowling is an interactive video game that’s fun, challenging, competitive, and above all, social. The Enumclaw Wii Bowling Team travels to other senior Centers for competition and socializing. Pat loves the traveling part because she meets fun people like herself.
When not volunteering at the Center (which is rare!), Lillian reads, mainly nonfiction, and during the season, watches football on TV. She is a devoted Seahawks fan and her son, who has season tickets, takes her to games.
Pat is surrounded by family. She has two sons, one daughter, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. She enjoys fishing, clamming, barbecuing, and hunting for interesting rocks, which she makes into jewelry that she sells at local craft fairs.
Both women get four things from their volunteering: friendship, recognition, a feeling of being needed, and a reason to get out and see people. “It’s important to be recognized and to feel needed,” says Pat reflectively. And, she adds, feeling needed keeps her young.