Y center welcomes seniors

Among the variety of programs offered at the YMCA Community Center is an art class. Pictured here, instructor Ann Heckel, at left, gives some pointers to center director Paulette Welch, Mary Lou Connolly and Bea Stefan. Photo by Nancy Whyte for The Citizen

By NANCY WHYTE

"This little organization is the best kept secret in the city," said Ann Heckel, a retired art teacher who volunteers at the North Boroughs YMCA Community Center. Located at the corner of California and South Home Avenues in Avalon (in the former Church of Epiphany), the Community Center is an extension of the North Boroughs YMCA, and is the go-to place for seniors seeking companionship, socialization, mental stimulation, physical exercise, delicious home-cooked meals and an overall good time.

Program director Paulette Welch invites area seniors to stop by and see the center, and to pick up a copy of the monthly newsletter detailing events and opportunities, and filled with interesting information. Welch says that with the wide varieties of activities available, the center has something that is sure to interest everybody.

"Everyone really appreciates Paulette," said Dave Krebs, a regular center attendee. "She's an unsung hero."

Krebs said he broke his hip about 10 years ago, and while recuperating, used the exercise machines at the North Boroughs YMCA. Now he visits the Community Center almost every day. "It's the best thing that ever happened to me," Krebs confided.

Krebs plays Wii golf and bowling weekly and tracks his scores. "It's fun," he said. "It's just like the real thing, except I can play nine holes and walk less than 10 feet while doing so." In Wii golfing, Krebs has achieved a hole-in-one, but scoring a Wii 300 bowling game still eludes him. "I've come close, though," he said. "Twice I've bowled nine perfect frames," he said, "only to have a split or a spare in the final frame."

"The center is really good," said Krebs. It brings the community together. There are people of all ages in the exercise classes, and lots of people enjoy playing cards on Thursdays."

Al Marks visits the center at least two or three times a week. "The people here are great," he said, "there is always someone interesting to talk to."

Marks says the center can be particularly beneficial for men. "For some men, the retirement years can be a sad part of life. Without a job to go to, some retirees might not have a reason to get up in the morning." The secret to health and happiness, according to Marks, is to "get active and do something. Keep the mind active, and this center is the best place to do it."

"I'm really enjoying life," said Marks. "I've been retired 27 years, but I'm not too old to learn something new." Marks' favorite activities are the art painting classes, playing cards and bingo, and the home-cooked noon meals that are served Monday through Thursday.

"All Marge's cooking is good," answered Marks when asked about the center's meals. "If I had to pick a favorite, it might be her meat loaf. But I like all of her soups, too."

The nutritious noon meals are prepared on the premises by cook Marge Hamm. The cost is just $5; reservations should be made at least a day in advance by calling (412)734-2090. Smaller, light lunches are also available.

A wide variety of activities take place at the center.

Mary Lou Connolly enjoys spending time working on jigsaw puzzles. Dorthy Parks states that she likes the games of chance and Tuesday's bingo best. Several shelves of books are available for readers to buy or borrow and enjoy.

Art classes, taught by Ann Heckel, are held on Wednesdays, 12:30-2:30 p.m., at a cost of $9, which includes all materials. "I began here at the center about three years ago," she said. "Most of these artists had never painted before, and now they're having so much fun!"

Bea Stefan says that participating in the painting classes "relaxes me," and states that she feels as if she has accomplished something when she completes a project. She was particularly pleased with the watercolor pictures she painted for Christmas cards. Stefan, age 90, drives herself to the center. "I always like to learn something new," she says.
Connolly said she finds it satisfying to "express myself through painting. I have four children; I give my paintings to them."

Some of the artwork produced by the center's artists goes on display during sidewalk sale days and also in the Classic Chevrolet window on Lincoln Avenue in November and December. "Some pieces will be for sale," said Heckel.

Welch also enjoys joining the painting group. "It's a different way to express oneself. Most of us never had the opportunity to expand our artistic traits during earlier phases of our lives. But we still want to learn. Now we can. And we do."

The calendar of events the Center offers is extensive.

Almost every day exercise classes are offered.

Each Tuesday and Thursday mornings, free blood pressure readings are given by volunteer nurse Natalie Casey.

Bingo, using the new lighted bingo board, is played each Tuesday. Van service to and from Metowers is available by calling (412)734-2090 to register.

Every Wednesday, walkers depart from the center at 10 a.m. accompanied by personnel from the Avalon and Andrew Bayne libraries for a level "Wise Walk" around town.

Avalon Library director Rania Sullivan joins readers for the book group that meets at 11:15 a.m. at the center, on the second Monday of each month, to discuss a popular book.

Men meet at 8 a.m. on the last Wednesday of the month for a "guys only" breakfast.

On a select day each month, birthdays are celebrated.

A card party luncheon takes place each month.

Various individuals volunteer in different capacities at the center.

"I give them all the credit in the world," commented Marks.

Steve Mosolansky is the volunteer driver of the van, which can pick up individuals at their homes to bring them to the center. Other times, special outings are arranged. Mosolansky also picks up members to drive them to local grocery stores.

"I'm retired," said Mosolansky. "This give me something to do. You have to be active, and I just like helping others."

For more information concerning the various activities and programs offered by the center, for costs and to make reservations, drop by the center or call Paulette (412)734-2090. Also, visit the Y's Web site www.ymcaofpittsburgh.org/locations/north-boroughs-ymca .

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