NASHUA — At 84 years old, Mary Roberson isn't letting her age slow her down.
Five days a week, Roberson walks from her home in the city to the Nashua Senior Activity Center where she eats lunch, visits the library, relaxes in the coffee lounge and shops at the thrift store.
"I absolutely love it here," said Roberson, who refers to the center at 70 Temple St. as her home away from home. "My only regret is that I didn't find out about this place sooner."
Aside from all of the activities and classes, Roberson said the best part of the senior center is having a place to socialize with people her age, who share the same interests and concerns.
The Nashua Senior Activity Center is about 90 percent self-funded, and relies heavily on donations and fundraising to operate the facility, which costs about $300,000 a year.
Currently, there are about 2,000 members from the Greater Nashua area, a number that organizers are hoping will expand in the coming years.
"One of our concerns is that with the 'silver tsunami' approaching, more and more people are going to be seeking out services. We want to make sure we are here, and we can provide the services they will need," said Jeanne Marcoux, executive director of the Nashua Senior Activity Center, referring to the large number of baby boomers preparing to enter their senior years.
The organization has become very creative in trying to raise money to keep the senior center in operation, including the establishment of a thrift shop that is open to the public, partnering with local churches and businesses for donations, leasing space to tenants, hosting annual dinner auctions, organizing day trips and a new Fire and Fusion cooking competition.
With just four full-time employees and one part-time worker, the facility depends on volunteers to make activities available for members on a daily basis. Some of those activities include art classes, chorus, yoga, line dancing, Zumba, aerobics, hearing and blood pressure screenings, diabetic foot clinics and more.
"On Wednesday afternoons, there is a line out the door for people waiting to play Bingo," said Judy Porter, development manager at the Nashua Senior Activity Center. "We pretty much do anything and everything here."
Membership fees are $35 a year for individuals 50 and older, and $50 for couples. The membership fees account for about 11 percent of the center's revenue. The thrift store brings in about $30,000 a year, which includes revenue from the center's eBay store, Thrifty Thread 603. Along with numerous fundraisers each year, the center also seeks as many grants as possible to help raise the necessary $300,000 a year to keep the facility operating.
Organizers are grateful that the city built the senior center facility about seven years ago, and agreed to lease it to the organization for $1 a year. However, there is a misconception that the center is fully funded by the city, said Marcoux, stressing it is sometimes difficult to obtain donations from the public because of that misconception.
It takes an entire community to keep the senior center a vibrant resource in the community, maintained Porter, asking the public to consider helping the center this holiday season.
The center's newest fundraising effort is taking place at Uno Chicago Grill, 304 Daniel Webster Highway in Nashua. The fundraiser is ongoing until the end of the year, and enables patrons to donate 20 percent of their Uno's purchase to the Nashua Senior Activity Center. Customers must have a voucher, which is available at www.nashuaseniorcenter.org.
Another unique event hosted in part by the senior center and Fortin Gage florist shop is soon approaching, and features Gerald Charles Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens. The one-man show, A Child's Journey With Dickens, will take place at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at the senior center. Tickets are $10 each, and are available at Fortin Gage or the senior center. Half of the ticket sales will be donated to the senior center.