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Norway-Vulcan Area Senior Center community impact grows

The Norway-Vulcan Area Senior Center will host a celebration on Wednesday in recognition of its 50- year anniversary of becoming a non-profit. At left, from left are Center Director Joyce Oleksy, volunteer Johnny Gigilo, kitchen assistant and assistant cook Anna Robinson and head chef Brian Gutkowski.

By TERRI CASTELAZ

Staff Writer

NORWAY — Offering everything from a warm meal and fellowship to bingo and prizes to crafts and fitness, the Norway-Vulcan Area Senior Center’s community impact has grown over time.

The facility will celebrate its golden anniversary of becoming a non-profit on Wednesday with a special luncheon. A dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable and cake will be served. In addition, they will have a large salad bar available to guests starting at 10:30 a.m.

“This is one of our patron’s favorite meals,” said Center Director Joyce Oleksy. “The staff, along with volunteers, will be making hors d’oeuvres for when our guests arrive.”

Long-time patron and former board member Dennis Stanford and volunteer Johnny Gigilo spend the morning with a cup of coffee and activities.

Take-out meals can be picked up from 11 to 11:30 a.m., with the dine-in meal to follow. Reservations can be made by calling the center.

Although the Norway-Vulcan Senior Center has been serving the community for more than 50 years, it wasn’t until 1974 that they received their 501(c)3 status.

The center was established in 1967, with Marcella (Arnold) Melin hired as the first director. At that time the center served meals in the Hall-DeWinter American Legion building on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Mine Street. The hall was offered to the senior citizens’ organization at no cost and was used as its home for the next four years.

In June 1970, the group began negotiations to purchase the Rialto Theater at 608 Main St., and took over ownership in September. The two-year plan to convert the old movie theater into a dining and recreation hall began.

In January of 1972, a dedication of the new center took place with a capacity crowd of 250 people in attendance.

Officials started to work on the language to set up the center as a non-profit corporation in the state and to be known as the Norway-Vulcan Senior Citizens’ Center, Inc., which was granted in March of 1974.

In 2016, the center became an independent facility.

Since its beginning, the center has been dedicated to meeting the needs of local seniors, said Oleksy, who took over as director three years ago.

She noted that the meal attendance numbers speak volumes. “We have gone from serving 690 meals a month in 2018 to now we are consistently feeding over 1,000 a month,” she said.

Dine-in numbers have also continued to increase each month.

“For me and many others, it’s more than a meal site, it’s so important to have the company and friendship that the center offers,” said Oleksy, adding that they also do well-being checks as patrons are like family.

She also credits head chef Brian Gutkowski on preparing great tasting, quality meals week after week.

Barbecue ribs are the staple of the Wednesday evening meals, which are almost always sold out at 120 orders.

“Last month, we could have taken 175 orders, but had to cut off because we don’t have the oven capacity,” said Oleksy.

She noted those interested in ribs need to call early as they already have 80 people signed up for this month.

The evening meals also include soup and/or salad bar that opens at 4 p.m. Cost for the rib meal is $7 for those 60 and older and $8 for 59 and younger.

Another new popular menu item is the cold cranberry and chicken wrap. “It was a hit, we already have 90 orders — they couldn’t believe how good it was,” she adds. “We try to switch things up for the summer.”

The crowd also enjoys the homemade desserts, which are made at least twice a week.

They center is planning a Fourth of July picnic on July 3, with brats and hot dogs on the grill, along with several picnic salads.

“This is something we haven’t done since I have been here,” Oleksy added

The center is open for dine-in eating Monday through Thursday. Salad bar opens at 10:30 a.m. Takeout meals available for pick-up from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Cost is $5 for those 60 and older and $6 for 59 and younger.

They ask for meal reservations to be called to the center at 906-563-8716 at least 24 hours in advance. They also ask at that time to notify if you will dine in or pick up dinners.

Oleksy also stressed you don’t have to be a senior to enjoy a meal at the center.

The center is open to any activity or crafts. “Anyone is welcome to knit, crochet, sew, quilt, or work on crafts or ceramics,” she said. “People are always doing something, including working on puzzles.”

Cards are played daily at the center and they also host bingo.

Crafts produced by the seniors are sold as a fundraiser for the center.

“People really enjoy coming here — they are so appreciative of what we have to offer,” Oleksy said.

In the last three years, they have been able to make several upgrades to the facility including installation of a handicap door, equipment and paint.

“The handicap access was so important — it’s been so great to have,” she said.

In addition to Oleksy and Gutkowski, they have a full-time kitchen assistant and assistant cook Anna Robinson, and five volunteers who assist throughout the week.

Board members include board chairwoman Jean Marcell; secretary and treasurer Nancy Haferkorn, Lois Hoberg, Duane Lundamo, Marlea Youngs, Joanne Driedric and Sharon Tappy.

“It’s been fun watching the change since I joined the staff,” she said. “It’s a joy to do this.”

Oleksy thanks the community for their continued support, and they look forward to continuing to serve the area residents.

Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772 ext. 241, or tcastelaz@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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