Photos by Anthony Souffle, story and captions by Jacob Mayer
Walk in to the Murphysboro Senior Citizen Center, and you will see all types of activities from bingo to exercise classes. The center sits on 14th Street and serves as a place of fun and relaxation for seniors in Murphysboro.
Frances Weber, president of the Senior Center Bingo Club, said they get together each Friday afternoon. Members of the eight person group each bring gifts that are given to the winners. “Everybody brings two gifts, and everybody gets two gifts,” Weber said. Each person at the table has to get a bingo before everybody moves to the blackout round, where the first player to cover one of their six boards wins. Then, everybody clears their boards and prepares for a second set of games. Although playing the game is fun, the women come to the center primarily to enjoy each other’s company. “It’s a get together,” Weber said. “It gives us an activity to enjoy.”
Marie Schumaker, a bingo group member, said the games started many years ago as a way of relaxation for the quilters group when they got stressed. There is no longer a quilting group at the center, but the bingo continues each week. “I enjoy the friendship,” she said. “It’s something different.”
Along with bingo, the center offers several activities and events for seniors to attend. Throughout the week different groups play pinochle games, eat lunch together and have exercise classes, Weber said.
In order to serve seniors along with the enjoyment the fun activities bring, the center has the Jackson County Health Department give regular blood pressure checks, and has the Illinois Secretary of State’s office conduct Rules of the Road review classes three times a year, Weber said.
The center also has a van that provides transportation for seniors who are homebound. They can call one day in advance to set up when they need a ride, Weber said. The van allows seniors the transportation needed for their needs, such as a doctor appointment or a trip to the bank.
Each month, the center has a birthday party for all the members who have a birthday in that month. Weber said 15 to 30 people show up for the party where they enjoy a potluck dinner and play bunco, a dice game where points are totaled based on the number rolled. Kroger supplies the center with a birthday cake for the event.
Bingo player Angie Schiro likes the variety of activities held at the center and the opportunity to socialize the events provide. “I like it all,” she said. “I enjoy being with people and talking to them.”
Another monthly activity that members enjoy is the kitchen band. In this band, each member plays an instrument that is a kitchen supply, such as a kazoo made from a bleach bottle, Weber said. The band performs twice a month, once each at the Carbondale and Murphysboro centers respectively. “I play the spoons,” she said. “We have a lot of fun with the kitchen band.”
Each member pays $8 yearly dues, which fund the center’s activities along with sales from a resale shop that works out of the same building, Weber said. The center is managed completely by senior citizen volunteers, including Betty Mae Jackson, who makes full use of what the center can offer. “I come for lunch, exercise, bingo and the party,” she said. “If they need help, I come help.”
The center has also become a place where senior citizens can come and just relax in the couches and watch television. With its many opportunities, the center stays active and full of people. “It’s busy all the time,” Weber said. “If people are hot they can come in and rest. They can use the facility for their convenience.”
Ruth Milburn, member of the exercise group, said the nicest part of the center is that the group can get together and have lunch where they visit and talk about their families. Also, she enjoys the hugs that follow an exercise session. “We really enjoy each other’s company,” she said. “If you don’t show up, you don’t get a hug.”