Senior citizens who meet and eat five days a week at the Pembroke Seniors Center are always making crafts, and they have some to sell: knitted and crocheted items, decorative birdhouses, some leftover Christmas decorations and more.
Betty Lord likes to work with yarn. She has made yarn on plastic canvas things, such as a checkerboard patterned notepad, a tissue box cover and a coaster box with matching coasters.
Edna Love made a quilted purse with some help from Helen Dickerson, who works at the center through the Experience Works program.
When a project requires tools, Joe Winters is ready to help with his toolbox, said Dickerson and volunteer Shirley Dixon. Seniors can work on crafts whenever they like, but the people who operate the Seniors Center try to provide organized craft time several days each week, prior to an exercise session.
“They love this stuff. Everybody gets involved in one way or another,” Dixon said.
The center’s craft room is outfitted not only with the usual work table, glue and paints, but also with sewing machines and ironing boards.
Participating seniors, men and women, sometimes form a sort of assembly line to turn out an item in quantity. Working this way, they fashioned decorative faux magnolia blossoms of white balloons and wire, with sweetgum tree balls forming the centers.
They set many things out for a big craft sale the day of the Pembroke Christmas Parade, but not everything sold in December. A decision was then made to establish a store within the center with leftover items, said the center’s director, Kathy Sauls.
Although the seniors are usually there only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the center remains open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the public can come in and buy the handmade items. The proceeds go into the seniors’ activity account.
“They use that money to go on trips and to buy stuff and different activities, like going out to eat, or going on picnics, fishing trips, stuff like that,” Sauls explained.
The Pembroke center, like the one in Richmond Hill, is operated by the county government with federal funding. Some craft proceeds could be used to buy additional crafts materials, Sauls said, but the county provides money annually to buy most of the materials.
Anyone over age 60 who is healthy enough to move about without assistance can participate and eat lunch at the center, Sauls said. There is no financial qualification, but seniors are asked to donate toward the price of their meals, according to their ability. Terri Taylor, department head of Bryan County Special Services, which operates both centers, a home-delivered meals program and the county transportation service, reports that 35 to 40 people are enrolled for lunch at the Pembroke center, but about 20 to 22 participate on a typical day. Some only attend a few days each week.
The transportation service, with its vans, even picks up participants who can’t drive themselves and takes them back home in the afternoon. About half arrive this way.
In addition to crafts and exercise, the center offers special programs, such as speakers on health topics and last week, a dog groomer and dogs visited for pet therapy.
When seniors use their activity money for a trip to a restaurant – some have visited eateries in Statesboro and Blitchton – they go in the late afternoon, not at the regular lunch time.
Thursday brings bingo, with non-cash prizes provided by a local church or other donors.
The center has room for more participants, Sauls said.