Members at the Grovetown Senior Center are always on the go.
They’ve recently gone to an Augusta GreenJackets game, taken the Petersburg boat tours down the Augusta Canal and visited the Evans farmer’s market and the circus.
“They like to go, and I do, too,” center Director Jennifer Thomas said. “I try to plan a trip at least every month.”
Thomas worked at the center since mid-November and took over as director when Betty Laverty retired on Dec. 7. One of the first things Thomas did was ask the more than 30 seniors on the roster what they wanted to change or do.
“One of the main suggestions that they had was they needed to do more things,” Thomas said.
Thomas said she’s also planned for the seniors to attend an Atlanta Braves game in September and the Biltmore House in November.
Thomas might be the director, but she’s definitely not the only decision-maker. The seniors determine what they do and how they pay for it.
“We take a vote. I ask them for suggestions,” Thomas said. “They are involved in just about every aspect.”
Center activities are supported by donations, mostly raised at events such as the spring yard sale slated for Friday and Saturday and an annual spaghetti supper.
“It goes to more recreation, to the fun stuff,” Thomas said.
At monthly birthday parties, Thomas gives the seniors a budget report. They decide whether to use center funds or their own money or a combination to fund trips and other events.
Program Assistant Gary Stewart also started recently. He drives the van to pick up seniors and to deliver meals to homebound seniors.
Thomas and the seniors didn’t exactly hit it off right away. It took time for everyone to get to know and trust one another.
“We’re still trying her out,” Wilma Kitchings, of Grovetown, said jokingly. “We give her and Gary a hard time to see if they are up to power with us old people.”
“We fuss with her, but we like her,” said Pat Wheatley, of Evans.
Thomas moved from New York about six years ago and spent almost five years as a work therapy teacher at East Central Regional Hospital in Augusta.
Directing the center, Thomas said, provides her freedom, creativity and “interaction with some real good people.”
“We love our new director,” Lois Palmer, of Grovetown, said.
Columbia County residents 60 years old or older can join the center for free. Daily lunch and activities are provided in addition to the opportunity to participate in special events and trips.
Thomas said she loves her job and said the seniors are like “a bunch of grandmas.”
“It almost doesn’t feel like work,” Thomas said. “Almost, because I do still have to get out of bed in the morning. But everybody has heard the saying, ‘When you love what you do, it’s not a challenge.’ Coming here everyday, it’s not a challenge. I really do enjoy it.”