In 1989, almost 23 years ago, the Harker Heights United Methodist Church decided to reach out to the seniors in the city and provide activities especially for those persons over the age of 55. Many members of the church, then as now, were of a “certain age” and felt the community offered them little to do recreationally. A few senior programs had been tried but none had succeeded.
Research was conducted about the number of residents over that age, the city decided to assist in the project by offering the old community center as a meeting place without charge. A meeting of residents over age 55 was called and attended by 100 residents. The program, then called “55 Up,” was up and running and the participants have not stopped, or even slowed down, since.
The first couple months were worrisome as attendance varied from five people per day to 10 or 20. It was the holiday season, and planning was difficult since attendance was sporadic. But the people who were faithful in using the program kept it alive.
As the new year started, more people joined in the activities. More were added as residents expressed a need for them. One of the most popular activities was porcelain-doll making. More than 15 ladies would meet regularly to create beautiful dolls. Unfortunately, the old community center met its fate in early 2000 and burned down due to an electrical fault.
The fire, however, did not slow down the seniors program, even though all the doll molds and all the other activity equipment were lost.
A Thanksgiving dinner was held a couple days later in the parish hall of St. Paul Chong Hasang, arranged by members of 55 Up who were also members of the congregation. In less than two weeks after the fire, 55 Up was again on the go at the newly built Harker Heights Recreation Center.
Now called the Harker Heights senior recreation program, the activities are held mostly at the recreation center next to City Hall on Miller’s Crossing, with some special activities and events at the library and activities center on Indian Trail.
After moving to the new building, the senior recreation program has been increasing the number of days and the number of activities offered to senior adults. Activities are now in place five days a week, with weekend activities once a quarter. Participation numbers are now above 300, with many of them being senior adults from outside Harker Heights, who are welcomed into the center.
Joyce Mayer is the senior citizens recreation program director for Harker Heights. Contact her at email@example.com.