Baxter Center serves seniors and community

Ken Baxter Senior Community Center Director Maryke Burgess, checks in with the members of the center’s Canasta-playing group. -
Ken Baxter Senior Community Center Director Maryke Burgess, checks in with the members of the center’s Canasta-playing group.
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MARYSVILLE — Marvin Johnson has been playing Canasta “since it was invented,” at least 50 years ago, and for the past several years, he’s been playing it with fellow visitors to the Ken Baxter Senior Community Center, at 514 Delta Ave.

“I’m a retired firefighter, so I’m used to being around people as part of my job,” Johnson said. “I lost my wife in April, so it helps to come by and be with people.”

Johnson was a regular at the senior community center well before his wife’s passing, though, since he estimated that he’s taken part in woodcarving classes and potluck dinners there for the past 20 years. In addition to complimenting its “helpful, friendly” director and staff, he also cited the convenience of the center’s “centrally located” position in town, “which makes it easy to get to, and then go for a dinner at the Golden Corral.”

According to Maryke Burgess, director of the center for more than six of its 11 years of existence, stories like Johnson’s are “very common,” since many of the center’s 134 new members gained within the past year have come in by themselves.

“They’re often a bit nervous, so we try to make them feel welcome and show them that there’s something here for everyone,” said Burgess, who touted the 21 trips and 25 other monthly programs offered by the center last year.

As part of the city of Marysville’s Parks and Recreation Department, Burgess sees it as the center’s mission to provide quality recreational activities for both seniors and other members of the community. She emphasized that the center’s tours, life skills education and health and wellness programs don’t have age limits in either direction.

“Our activities are predominantly tailored toward seniors during the day, and the general population in the evenings,” Burgess said. “We’re here to provide a well-rounded experience and serve as a resource and gathering place for the whole community. We’re frequently the first point of contact for people who need to find out where to go or where to turn. In my opinion, this center is the heartbeat of Marysville.”

Burgess dismissed as a misconception the idea that the center is only for seniors, and proudly pointed to its variety of arts and crafts classes, including gourd and driftwood sculpture, that she’s seen awaken creative inspiration in those who might not have suspected that they possessed such talent. At the same time, she noted that the center is helping seniors stay current with trends like text-messaging and the Nintendo Wii, through their classes and games.

“A lot of times, you won’t know what’s going on until you walk through our doors,” Burgess said. “This is a place where people can relax, enjoy each other’s company and support, and develop lifelong friendships. Our most important job is to make them feel happy the moment they walk through our doors.”

The Ken Baxter Senior Community Center is located at 514 Delta Ave., and is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, call 360-363-8450.

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