Each weekday morning, a core group of cribbage players stands outside Lynden Community/Senior Center waiting for the doors to open at 8. The men play for exactly two hours. Many of them have been keeping score for years. The women play later in the morning.
The cribbage ritual is but one of the unique attributes of the Lynden center. Unlike other senior centers in Whatcom County, Lynden doesn’t take federal money for its lunch program. As a result, the center serves its own homemade meals instead of the frozen ones required for centers that accept federal funds, says manager Cathi LeCocq.
The center provides lunch for the 40 to 100 people who come on weekdays and the 25 or more who have meals delivered to their homes. Hired cooks and volunteers prepare meals on the premises.
The center raises money for its lunches from the community and a suggested $5 donation from eaters. Other contributions include day-old pastries from the local Safeway.
“People in Lynden are proud of the fact that they support the program,” LeCocq says. “Lynden’s always been independent and self-reliant.”
Another difference is evident in the name “Lynden Community/Senior Center.” While most of the 400 members are 60 or older, the center considers itself a place for people of all ages. People with disabilities often use the center, as do home-schoolers, who entertain members with music and plays. Construction workers from a nearby project on Front Street sometimes come for lunch, too.
In addition, a church community rents the center for Sunday services, and groups as varied as Alcoholics Anonymous and 4-H use the building for evening meetings. One of the members held her 90th birthday party there, and couples rent the building for weddings.
“We want people of all ages to feel this is their center,” LeCocq says. “It’s not just for old people.”
Yet the center’s main purpose is helping older adults stay as healthy and independent as possible. To that end, the center offers many exercise classes. LeCocq — a recreation major at Western Washington University and the activity manager for Whatcom Council on Aging for nearly 20 years — teaches strength training and tai chi at the center.
Along with cribbage, people play board games and other card board games, meet for Bible study, and play bocce. The center, located in a former grocery store now owned by the city of Lynden, has an open meeting area, a small stage, a weight room, a large kitchen, and smaller meeting and computer rooms.
The center raises money, in part, through its gift shop. To stock the store, local quilters and knitters make booties, hats, and baby sets. While the organization doesn’t receive federal money, it does receive funds from Whatcom County and the city of Lynden.
The center raises more than $200,000 a year. Supporters have been trying new fundraisers, including one that runs counter to advice LeCocq heard when she came to the center as an intern in the 1970s. The advice a member told her: “We don’t drink, we don’t swear, and above all we don’t dance.”
Times do change. The center recently hosted a dance that raised $1,300. The 60 people who came had a terrific time, and hope to do it again.
Margi Fox is a Bellingham writer.
What: Raspberry Festival pancake breakfast benefits Lynden Community/Senior Center
When: 7 to 11 a.m. Friday, July 18, at the center, 401 Grover St.
Cost: $5 per person
Lynden Community/Senior Center
Address: 401 Grover St.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; closed weekends.
Dues: $25 a year