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Seniors rejoice at wellness center reopening

by Marvin Richards | July 6, 2021 at 8:30 p.m.
Seniors participated in a dance class Tuesday morning at the Champagnolle Landing Senior Wellness Center as it reopened after over a year of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Marvin Richards/News-Times)

The Champagnolle Landing Senior Wellness Center officially reopened on Tuesday after being closed since March 17, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A big ‘Welcome Back’ banner was strung along the outside entrance to greet seniors. Numerous seniors made their way to the center, having the building abuzz by noon.

As one entered, a game of bingo could be heard going in the auditorium, as well as a group of men laughing and talking as they played a game of pool and music coming from upstairs as a dance class was already in session.

The energy felt in the early hours of the reopening was exactly what the center was missing, according to Grady Tracy, the chief operating officer for the South Arkansas Developmental Center for Children and Families (SADCCF).

“I get to see all my friends,” Tracy said. “Seeing all the seniors that were already here to use the facility was great. They all are just so excited to be back. Getting them back and keeping them healthy with movement and interactions with others is so important.”

JoAnn Lowery, a senior in attendance, echoed Tracy’s sentiment.

“It is a blessing to be back and to see the center open again,” Lowery exclaimed. “It is a place where we can come and fellowship and love one another. We can’t hug like we used to because a lot of people still haven’t gotten their shot (COVID vaccine) but we are praying and encouraging them to get it so we can continue to be here and hopefully embrace one another.”

Lowery was also wearing a crown as she walked around greeting her friends and sharing a smile. She explained how she got the crown.

“Miss Arkansas Senior was here today,” Lowery said. “She had on her crown and what a blessing it was to have one of us win that crown. So it was announced that every month we will have someone here at the center wear a crown and today, they crowned me. I appreciate the honor of being crowned.”

Last month, El Dorado resident Janice Zarebski was named Miss Arkansas Senior.

Lowery said she has not played dominoes since 2019, so one of the first things she did when she arrived at the center was play a game of dominoes with a few of her friends. She also expressed some sadness at the friends that she will no longer see as they perished within the last year.

“We have a lot of people that have gone on,” Lowery shared. “The Lord has carried them on and we will truly miss them.”

The wellness center offers activities such as bingo, dominoes, puzzles, cards and other games. They also have a full gym with showers and lockers, a computer room, library books and a pool room with monthly pool tournaments and monthly domino tournaments.

One of the popular draws for the center, according to wellness center director Barbara Warrick, is the hot lunch they serve from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day.

“With the temperature rising and humidity kicking in, I want elders to also know that the center serves as a place where they can retreat from the heat,” Warrick said. “If they are over the age of 60, we welcome them to stay cool and out of the heat here in the wellness center.”

A lot of seniors were doing just that, sitting down, having a glass of iced tea and staying cool. Others, like Marie Green who worked for the center for 37 years and is now a retiree and wellness center board member, were upstairs utilizing the walking track to move around and get some exercise.

“This is like home for a lot of seniors,” Green said. “It is amazing to see everyone back. It is amazing to see how they have it set up. I’m almost in tears because it feels so good to be back. I love to exercise and to be able to use the walking track in a nice cool place is so important for seniors.”

Champagnolle Landing is located at 910 Champagnolle Road and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Gallery: Champagnolle Landing Wellness Center Reopening

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