Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Despite Economy, Nonprofit Thrives; A Senior Center Is Full of People Learning and Having Lots of Fun

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Despite Economy, Nonprofit Thrives; A Senior Center Is Full of People Learning and Having Lots of Fun

Article excerpt

Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - In the midst of the crippled economy, when non-profit organizations are as victimized as anyone, The Players Community Senior Center is thriving.

"We had about 100 people when we opened in May 2007; now we've grown to 1,400," Senior Center Coordinator Julie Wright said last week. "I'm fortunate we've experienced tremendous generosity and talent here."

But Wright knows the economy could be hurting well into 2009 and that writing grants, one form of funding, is becoming more difficult.

"I'm going to be working with a professional grant writer," she said.

Programs offered at the center such as yoga, bridge, stamp collectors club, chess club, scrabble, gentle tai chi, the quilting guild and beading buddies, are all taught by volunteers.

"In the beginning, we did a lot of soliciting for volunteers," Wright said. "In the last six months, we've had people call us."

Special classes offered this month include Nintendo Wii golf league, guitar simplified for everyone, beginning computers, caregiver support group and harping for healing and relaxation.

However, in March, grant money will expire for other popular classes including acrylic painting, ballet, sculpting and drawing. Wright said she's hopeful that those programs will get more funding.

The private non-profit center is funded by the Federal Older Americans Act, general revenue through the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, the Northeast Florida Area Agency on Aging, the St. Johns County commissioners and the United Way of St. Johns County.

About 10 other partners provide grants. One of the newest partners, Humana Insurance, will provide $200 a month for exercise classes.

"One of our goals for the new year is to create more partnerships," Wright said. "We don't charge for most of our classes."

One instructor said she volunteers because she likes to give back.

"I had a skill I could share that I knew people could enjoy," said Barbara Danzig, who teach jewelry-making techniques to the Bead Buddies group. …

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