Lake Norman & Mooresville

South Iredell Senior Center is a hidden gem

Front desk receptionist Ron McLean guides Helen MacDonald, a mahjong player, through the check-in procedure at the South Iredell Senior Center.
Front desk receptionist Ron McLean guides Helen MacDonald, a mahjong player, through the check-in procedure at the South Iredell Senior Center. SANDRA PHILLIPS

During an average week, 500 to 1,000 senior citizens visit the South Iredell Senior Center. Located on the lower level of the Mooresville Civic Center, this hidden gem is a place for seniors to exercise, attend seminars or participate in special interest groups.

The center buzzed with activity on a Wednesday morning, usually a slow day. Ron McLean called out greetings, answered questions about a new computer check-in system and handled various duties with aplomb.

McLean has manned the front desk seven years. His voice and face are familiar to everyone.

“I’m sort of a catch-all person. Because I see people daily, I’m on a first-name basis with many of them. I consider them friends as well as participants at the Senior Center,” McLean, 65, said.

Linda Bell, program assistant, described McLean as “our go-to man.” “He’s a wealth of knowledge out there,” she said.

In between fielding telephone calls and questions, McLean discussed some of the activities available to Iredell County residents 60 and older. Out-of-county residents who pay a $25 fee also are eligible to participate.

“We have something here for just about everybody. If we don’t, we’ll get someone to lead it,” McLean said.

Sounds of breaking balls echoed from a billiards table. Although experienced guys were playing, novices can learn, too. Dennis Maroney has started teaching a beginners’ class on Tuesday afternoons.

Another group organized euchre, a card game, nine months ago.

In fact, cards are a popular activity. There’s poker, several types of canasta and bridge.

Participants drop in for numerous activities, but that’s not the case with bridge. So many people play different levels, players are scheduled for games on a rotating basis.

As McLean greeted mahjong players, he mentioned this hospitable group is happy to teach newcomers the ancient Chinese game played with tiles.

“We can always use more participants,” Helen MacDonald, a mahjong player, said.

Another activity McLean likes to promote is a memoir class, “Writing Senior Memories.” He sees a need to preserve stories for future generations.

The writers began meeting in 1995 when the Senior Center opened. Some original members such as Betty Causey, 93, still attend.

Seniors exercise their bodies as well as their minds. “We’re here to get wet,” one exerciser joked as he checked in for a water class in the indoor pool.

For those who prefer to stay dry, there are classes such as tai chi. Most activities are free, but participants pay a small fee for classes with certified instructors.

“The Senior Center tries to be educational as well as recreational,” McLean said.

In addition to dances and socials, programs ranging from health care to financial planning to self-defense are offered. On “Lunch and Learn” days, a $1 donation is a bargain for a meal and opportunity to learn about an interesting topic.

For people who require additional assistance, support groups and counseling services are available. Because the Senior Center is a division of the Iredell Council on Aging, a nonprofit, McLean fields inquiries about a range of needs from transportation to agencies providing meals for seniors.

Although Bell, 50, is not as visible as McLean, she interacts with seniors when she can get away from her desk. Like McLean, she’s a cheerleader for Senior Center.

The center receives some funding from a federal grant but must match a percentage of the funds.

Volunteers are gathering supplies for a July 31 workshop. They’ll create gift baskets and homemade items for Santa’s Gift Shop in November.

“It’s Santa’s elves’ workshop,” Bell said as she opened a door. Christmas gift baskets lined a counter.

McLean pointed to a wall where businesses are listed. They pay $100 a year to place brochures at the Senior Center.

“We scrap and scrape any way we can to raise funds,” McLean said.

Although it was past time for McLean to leave, he was still at work. According to Bell, he’s the kind of guy who says, “If you need me, call me when I leave.”

Sandra Phillips is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Sandra. Email her at maggieretrieve@windstream.net.

Want to go?

The South Iredell Senior Center is located at 202 N. Church St. For information about classes or issues relating to seniors, call 704-662-3337. Information is also available at www.Iredellcoa.com.

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