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Deer Park senior center celebrates 25th birthday

For a quarter century, the Deer Park Community Center has played host to the local senior center.

By all accounts, the noontime meal and socialization program has been a huge success.

At a special 25th anniversary celebration Thursday, May 19, about 50 people attended a meal and program marking the big birthday.

Senior Center Manager Janice Thompson, who has worked at the center for 22 years, said the facility started out serving two noon meals a week. Today, four meals are served each week.

Eighteen to 25 meals are served at the senior center on average, and volunteers deliver some meals to shut-ins in the region. Meals for New Richmond, Cylon and Somerset senior centers are also prepared at the local facility. A total of 144 meals are prepared by the Deer Park kitchen each day.

"We are so fortunate to have this facility in this community," she said. "It is with the help of so many wonderful volunteers that we're able to accomplish so much."

Joe Carnine recalled that the community was told they had little chance to secure grant funding to help make the senior center a reality.

But with the help of many supporters, and the backing of such community organizations like the Lion's Club, American Legion, homemakers clubs, townships and Bremer Foundation, Carnine said, their 1984 grant application scored the highest of all applications that year.

At the time, David Schnitzler said, the community was focused on building a new fire hall.

"Nobody thought we'd get a senior center attached to it," he said.

Schnitzler noted that the backing of former State Rep. Harvey Stower surely helped Deer Park secure the grant funding it needed for the project.

Since the building was first occupied, Pete Thompson said, it has been well used.

"The building is now used 300 days out of the year," he said.

Janice Thompson thanked the center's board of directors, and all the senior citizens who partake in the noon meals and other activities, for their continuing support.

Among the activities the senior center has hosted over the years include card parties, flu shots, foot care programs, field trips to points of interest and more.

The first meal at the Deer Park Senior Center was served in May of 1986. Those in attendance marked the anniversary with a special birthday cake.

Various displays were exhibited during the gathering to commemorate the special occasion.