Photo by Kelly Sullivan: Chain-saw artist Larry Carter carved a sign with MCSC’s new logo that Corky Savoie illustrated.
Photo by Kelly Sullivan: Chain-saw artist Larry Carter carved a sign with MCSC’s new logo that Corky Savoie illustrated.

The East County Senior Center is retiring its old moniker as it approaches its 50th year of service in the Sky Valley. From now on, visitors will have to ask for directions to the Monroe Community Senior Center.

“The name change reflects what we already do,” wrote the nonprofit’s board of directors president Joan Brown in an email. “We are a Community Center. Many groups use our facility. We often do events in cooperation with the Boys and Girls Club, the (Sky Valley) Food Bank and library. The name merely makes it official and an important part to the beginning of our Golden Anniversary year.”

Executive director Jacob McGee said the idea came about during a visioning process last year that included staff, the board of directors, the center’s members and volunteers. Outreach coordinator Candace Ranz said changing the name had been discussed for a few years.

Members were enlisted to assist in the transition. Chain-saw artist Larry Carter carved the new logo into the street sign and Corky Savoie illustrated. Both are regular class instructors at the facility, which has been at 276 Sky River Parkway since 1994.  

The senior center was originally run by volunteers out of an abandoned fruit stand off U.S. Highway 2 back in 1968, McGee said. Gatherings offered the elderly in the east part of Snohomish County the chance to socialize and sit down together for meals, he said. It bounced around to other locations over the years before landing at its current spot.

About 10,000 senior centers nationwide are serving more than one million older adults every day, according to the National Council on Aging. Those who participate “have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction and lower levels of income.”

Members average 75 years in age, according to the council. At the local center, at 101-year-old Wyn Rose is one of the oldest members.

“She always puts a smile on my face,” Ranz said.

Senior Ray Noyd comes to the Monroe Community Senior Center every day. He said he comes for the entertaining stories and good company.

“I come here because it’s a break in the day,” Noyd said. “I shoot the breeze with other people and have lunch.”

For some seniors, it’s their only hot meal of the day, Ranz said. Many people who are older no longer cook for themselves, she said.

Lunch is offered five days a week for anyone in the community whether they are a member or not, and no age restrictions apply. Every day except Wednesdays attendees are asked for a $3 donation, or a $6 fee is asked for patrons below the age of 60. In the middle of the week, $4 is requested that goes toward the center, Ranz said.

The once-a-week fee is one of the ways Monroe Community Senior Center (MCSC) receives funding, she said. The largest source of financial support comes from Snohomish County’s Long Term Care and Aging department, which is under the umbrella of Human Services. That money makes up about 25 percent of the nonprofit’s yearly budget, according to McGee.

Community support is critical for maintaining services, McGee said. The center’s annual auction is its second largest single source of capital, which usually generates around $40,000. Otherwise, community contributions add up to nearly 15 percent of the budget.

The city of Monroe’s Mobility Lifeline transportation services are also one of the smaller sources of income, McGee said. The program gets seniors and adults with disabilities people to and from the center, and takes them on errands between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday.

Those who are living within seven miles of the center are eligible for the bus rides, Ranz said. 

The center’s services will remain intact as MCSC transitions into its big birthday year. Myriad activities and classes, such as bingo and knitting, and annual events like the pancake breakfast and silent auction will stay listed in The Grapevine, which is the newsletter that comes out every two months.

The auction is going into its 15th year, which has historically been held at the Echo Lake Country Club. McGee is moving the event to the center for the first time, largely to save money. He said it can cost up to $12,000 just to rent the facility. 

Some time has been set aside to celebrate the big birthday. An open house will be held 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21 at the facility. “Cheers to 50 Years” will include food and drinks. Ranz said Original Pilot House Coffee also created a unique blend for the anniversary, which can be purchased at MCSC. 

Todd Strickler started coming to MCSC because he wanted to take up guitar during retirement. Now he is a regular volunteer, longtime member and director on the nonprofit’s board.

“It gets me out of the house and away from Fox News,” he joked.

Strickler’s wife was coming to the center before he was, because of the trips the community can go on and the knitting; she had already taken up the hobby before joining the center’s group, but enjoys the chance to work on a hobby in a group setting, he said.

Ranz said one of the misconceptions about the center is that it is a place to live. She said there are no beds, and the services are specifically designed for active seniors.