Arley Senior Center’s grand opening is Monday

The Arley Senior Center will open Monday at the Arley Fire Department. Shown from left are Arley Fire Chief James Rickett, Cathy Cooper, emergency medical volunteer and chaplain and Bob Cooper, public information officer and firefighter.

ARLEY - Lonely widowers have caught the attention of Bob and Cathy Cooper of the Arley Fire Department as the team has made medical calls over the past few years.
Noticing a need, the Coopers began looking into starting a senior center in Arley. Through their efforts, donations, assistance from the Arley Women’s Club and others, the idea has now come to fruition. The first meeting will be Monday, Oct. 7, from 5-8 p.m. at the Arley Fire Department, located on County Road 77. Those attending are urged to bring a dish to share.
The meetings will be held on the first and third Monday nights each month from 5-8 p.m., and the first and third Thursday mornings from 8-11:30 a.m. every month.
According to Bob’s research and statistics websites, the median age of all zip codes in Alabama is 39. The median age for Arley is 52, most likely due to retirees along Smith Lake. Bob said  1,299 people in Arley are over the age of 55, out of the total population of 3,300.
While finding a suitable building would be the ideal situation to house the Arley Senior Center, no building has been available. It was former Arley Fire Chief George Gibson’s idea to house the senior center in the Arley Fire Department. When James Rickett, the current fire chief, gave the go-ahead, the Arley Women’s Club made the senior cen-
ter the number one priority on their list at a summit meeting.
Even though a permanent building is needed, with the AWC behind them, the Coopers decided to get it started and meet at the fire department.
“With the momentum of the women’s club behind us, we decided starting it here would probably be the best idea, and the city can see the great need,” Cathy said. “This is run by donations only. I don’t have the permanent address to apply for grants yet.” The Coopers are working on making the senior center a 501(C)3 non-profit municipal organization.
“In two weeks, we had 136 surveys,” Bob said about those who mailed surveys back and were interested in starting the ASC. “We only needed 100,” he added.
The need for the center can be described by a situation Cathy found herself in one time on a fire call.
“Four years ago, we responded to this call of an elderly lady, who was in a ton of pain in her stomach,” Cathy said. “She wanted to hold my hand because she was so scared. During (the time her vitals were taken), there were four people standing around.
‘It seems like you have a lot of help,’ Cathy told the woman, who replied, ‘No, I called 9-1-1. There’s a lot of people here but nobody for me.’
“That broke my heart. They need someone to love on them.”
“The chief here will find them by themselves at home,” Bob added.
The ASC vision is a community organization that enhances the quality of life for all senior citizens, especially widows and widowers, of the Arley community. The mission of the ASC is to provide a social environment to enhance the spiritual, emotional and social well-being of senior citizens living in the Arley community.
Expected activities are to include pot-luck meals, games, singings and guest speakers tailored for senior citizens.
In the future, the ASC plans to become an elderly nutrition program site with meals provided by the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Government.
Membership and dues are not expected from those attending, though donations will be accepted.
“I’m super excited,” Cathy said. “This is something we have been thinking about for a long time. It all came together really fast.”
Senior centers provide not only socialization to the seniors, but entertainment as well. The centers are generally run by volunteers but can be a paid position depending on the availability of grants and donations.
For more information or to help with donations, please contact Cathy Cooper at 719-964-4430.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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