Dining in style

Open house honors history of local senior center


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Susan Stoltze (Bill Stoltze’s mother), Rep. Bill Stoltze and Loretta French cut the ribbon to celebrate the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center remodel on July 30.

CINTHIA RITCHIE

The spacious and airy new Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center dining room was packed with a standing-room-only crowd during the open house and ribbon cutting ceremony on July 30, and they came for more than the food and cake, too.

They came to celebrate the end of the dining room remodel process, and to reflect on the history of the center.

And to honor the words of Loretta French, who was one of the guest speakers.

French told stories of the center’s early days, when there was no phone (“We couldn’t afford it,” she said) or running water, and how on weekends there would be potlucks and barbecues, and center volunteers would drive around and pick up seniors since there was no on-site living quarters at the time.

The center eventually raised money to put in a septic system and a phone, and before long there was enough for a van, and then later, the first set of apartments were put in, and then the second, and then daycare and assistant living.

“And it kept going and going,” French said.

And though French moved to the Lower 48 to be closer to family, she said that she still has close ties to the Chugiak-Eagle River community and, especially, the senior center.

“This place is part of my life,” French said.

According to executive director Linda Hendrickson, the center is busy planning a series of upcoming improvements.

“We’re not going to rest on our laurels,” she said. “We have other needs.”

Future projects include an Alzheimer’s memory care unit, parking lot upgrades and educational outreach programs.

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