Enumclaw Senior Center turning 40

A treasured community resource is turning 40 years old and everyone is invited to help celebrate.

The Enumclaw Senior Center will be the guest of honor from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 15. Visitors will observe a four-decade photo timeline and be treated to refreshments and hors d’eouvres. In addition, the 56th Army Band will be playing at 6.

The senior center’s ongoing success could be linked to stability at the top. Jobyna Nickum, who has headed the operating since 1991, is just the third executive director in 40 years.

An unabashed advocate for the center and its visitors, Nickum sees Thursday’s celebration “as a way not just to celebrate our current seniors, but really to honor all the seniors who have walked through these doors for the past four decades. To honor all the people who have worked here over the years, all the many volunteers, all the seniors who have been a part of the fabric of the Enumclaw Senior Center, past and present.”

Four decades of success is no accident, Nickup emphasizes. The senior center “makes an actual difference is the lives of our eldest citizens,” she said, pointing to offerings like the myriad programs offered within the center’s walls, the noontime luncheons, the hot meal program for homebound citizens and the van that shuttles seniors to much-needed medical appointments.

When first-timers walk through the doors, she said, the typical response is, “I had no idea all this was going on in here.”

The most important thing a senior center can do, Nickum said, is to provide a gathering place, where companionship is key. A leading problem facing older Americans is “social isolation,” she explained, noting that those who sit home along have greater incidents of chronic illness and a general lessening in their quality of life.

The Enumclaw Senior Center sprang to life 40 years ago on Porter Street, occupying space in the Education Building of Calvary Presbyterian Church. Margaret Yonkers was hired to manage the site, which was operated by Senior Services of Seattle/King County.

The city of Enumclaw showed its commitment and support of seniors by allowing the program to move into 1350 Cole St. in 1980.

Shortly after moving into the new location, the Christmas Eve windstorm of 1982 hit with a vengeance. Much of the building was damaged and several months of repair was needed.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church donated space and lunch was prepared and served there from January through March of 1983.

Yonkers retired in 1986 and Dianne Ronngren took the reins in 1985, serving until 1991.

“She served the seniors and the senior center with great love,” Nickum said.

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