Home Local News ‘FRIENDSHIP, FELLOWSHIP AND FUN’: Hamlet Senior Center reopens after renovations

‘FRIENDSHIP, FELLOWSHIP AND FUN’: Hamlet Senior Center reopens after renovations

Hamlet Senior Center Director Amanda Kempen welcomes members back after a two-week closure for cleaning and rearranging. See more photos below. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

HAMLET — After two weeks of waiting, older residents of the Seaboard City are finally able to get back to the Senior Center.

The Hamlet Senior Center recently received a makeover and members were welcomed back Monday by Director Amanda Kempen, who took the lead on Sept. 18.

The center closed Nov. 6 for a deep-cleaning and to move things around. Kempen thanked the members for “patiently waiting during this transition.”

“Change is not easy, but the support and encouragement from you all has kept us going … to work each and every day to make this a better place for you all, each and every one of you,” Kempen said.

“We hope that the center can be a safe and inviting space where we can continue to grow as a family,” Kempen continued. “Where we continue to spend quality time together … and most importantly, make memories with one another.”

Kempen said that, working with Activities Coordinator Chadlin Brooks, they are looking for ways to bring creative programs to the members to inspire them.

Hence the renaming of the art room to the “Inspiration Station.”

“Our motto in there is: All the small brush strokes of life create our big picture,” Kempen told the crowd. “So every mark, every piece of the puzzle, every memory, every conversation that we have in this building creates the environment for our Senior Center.

On the table in the room was a canvas that members were asked to make a mark on.

Another change was switching out the round tables — which Director of Community Engagement Mechelle Preslar said felt “cliquey” — for rectangular tables arranged in a double-L-shaped layout.

Preslar said that arrangement, inspired by the senior center in Troy, “makes it more conducive for the seniors to interact with each other.” She said the one in Montgomery County also makes the participants sit beside someone else each time.

A mirror in the hallway, across from the main entrance, has been replaced with directional signs, letting seniors know where to go for which activities.

The exercise equipment was moved from the art room — where the fitness machines were blocking the sliding glass doors to the lakeview deck — to what was the reception area.

Preslar said most seniors came into the dining area, so the reception room wasn’t really being used.

The former craft room is now an office space for Brooks and the volunteers.

“This is just like a breath of fresh air,” Preslar said.

Kempen said her main goals as director are “to grow the center in a positive direction, encourage an environment of fellowship and friendship, (and) to increase the wellness for each person that walks in the door — for their lives to be left better when they leave than when they came.”

The center has about 45 regular members each week of the “hundreds” who are members.

“Some can only come one or two days a week because of transportation,” Kempen said. “Others are here every single day, from the time we open to the time we close.”


One of those is Mary Baker.

Baker and Daisy Brown — Southern Ladies Unique Dancers — won first place in line dancing at the state senior games in September.

Daisy Brown and Mary Baker stand on the back deck of the Hamlet Senior Center. The duo took first place in line dancing at the state Senior Games.

Kempen said in the two months she’s been at the center, she’s seen an average of 10 people per day — “and it’s growing.”

Anyone 65 or older is eligible for a free lunch through the Council on Aging’s nutrition program.

In addition to the activities already offered — including the monthly veterans club and prayer breakfast — Kempen said she’s planning to host a monthly birthday social for all the members born in the same month, and to form a “daycationers group” to take at least one day trip each week.

There are currently two day trips planned for December.

“When you get out, it just increases your socialization skills, increases your mental health … you’ve got to get around other people,” Kempen said. “Because if you stay secluded, it’s going to be easier to stay secluded and be harder for you to become social once again.

“We are relational beings,” Kempen continued. “So often we isolate ourselves, but we’re not meant to be in isolation — we’re meant to be around others.

“And that’s what we’re about here is just friendship, fellowship and fun.”

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.