The Normal Township Activity & Recreation Center (ARC) team has much to celebrate this National Senior Center Month as we look back on a year full of success in growing many of ARC’s longstanding programs and providing new opportunities for local older adults to engage, stay active, and reduce risk for social isolation.
While it has been over two years since ARC reopened following the COVID-19 pandemic closure, and though membership numbers have been rising steadily ever since, it wasn’t until 2023 that we truly began to see a resurgence in attendance and feel that familiar sense of buzzing energy through our halls. Our Music Enrichment program brings an audience of at least 50 twice monthly to reconnect with songs of years past while enjoying the witty humor and zest for learning brought by the leader and music educator Rita Meland. In fact, most of ARC’s music-related programs have seen a jump in interest, including the ARCoustic Jam and Slow Jam groups and our now bi-monthly social dances with entertainment by DJ Brad Olson, which regularly reach an attendance of 75 or more.
The ARC team is also thrilled to see a wave of new members taking up the increasingly popular sport of pickleball. In years past, pickleball clinics and boot camps were offered on a quarterly basis, but this year, we’ve worked to increase those offerings to every other month to accommodate all those with a desire to get involved. Other exciting community partnerships helping to provide new educational and social opportunities include an increase in scam prevention presentations and Coffee with a Cop social hours with the Normal Police Department and the addition of appointment-based and walk-in hours with new senior service provider Assisted Living Helpers. Assisted Living Helpers is a free service for seniors looking for help to navigate their senior living and senior care search that offers support, advocacy, and personalized recommendations.
Spring at ARC brought the completion of the new green space at the center thanks to the tremendous efforts of volunteer members like Susan Kossman and Cindy Langrall, who contributed their knowledge of gardening and their green thumbs to design and implement a landscaping plan. So far, the space has been utilized during our ribbon-cutting celebration, a garden party, and a flower-arranging demo. Members can also play lawn games and enjoy the company of friends over a cup of coffee outdoors at any time. We are so proud of how the green space has blossomed and have enjoyed watching it burst with life thanks to partnerships with nearly all our local nurseries, the Central Illinois Woodworkers Club, who built the raised garden beds, and our much-appreciated watering volunteers, Stan and Leslie Hitchins.
As much as we have enjoyed the start of 2023 and all the growth of the spring and summer, the ARC team is looking forward to what is to come at the center this fall and beyond. Our annual Celebrate the Season Art & Craft Sale is set to take place Saturday, October 28th from 9am – 1pm in the ARC Rec Room. This event is open to the public, so we hope to see you there with friends and family for a chance to snag some wonderful and unique, handmade gifts for the holidays! We also have several exciting opportunities for travel on deck in 2024 and 2025 in partnership with Collette Vacations and Peoria Charter Travel. Trips abroad will include options to explore Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Canada, while trips here in the US include the islands of New England and a Hawaiian adventure through O’ahu, Big Island, and Maui. Both the craft sale and our partnership with Collette Vacations are valued ways that members and the community give back to the center and support ARC’s operations, oftentimes without even realizing it. Ten percent of the proceeds from the annual craft sale and 10 percent of the sales from each trip are given back to Normal Township to help support the continued growth of programs and services at ARC.
Another way that members and the community can give back to ARC is through our annual campaign for the ARC Living Memorial Fund. The 2023 Build the ARC Campaign will kick off in September in conjunction with our Outdoor Concert on September 8th from 5 – 7pm in and around the green space. We will welcome musical duo Almost Live, along with Uncle Tony’s Food for the Soul Food Truck and Meltdown Creative Works, who will offer ARC T-shirt printing live on-site. Our 2023 Build the ARC raffle, offering a chance to win prizes such as gift cards, gift baskets, and more, will run August 28th through 7pm the evening of the outdoor concert.
Two of our greatest goals for ARC in 2024 include the purchase of a shade structure for the green space and fitness netting for the Rec Room to help divide the space as needed for a variety of activities to take place safely. If each member made a gift of just $30 to the Build the ARC Campaign from September through the end of the year, we could raise nearly $100,000 to support these goals and the future growth of ARC. Donors can choose to make a gift in support of fitness programming, classroom upgrades and additions, the green space initiative, or general support, and donations can be made at ARC, on ARC’s website at www.activityandrecreationcenter.org, or on ARC’s Facebook page using handle @ARCNormal.
To learn more about ARC, call 309-888-9099 or stop by to tour the center at 600 E Willow Street in Normal. ARC is open Monday through Thursday, 7am – 7pm and Friday & Saturday, 8am – 1pm. From pickleball to Peace Meal and card games to cardio workouts, ARC has something for everyone to enjoy while connecting with peers and celebrating aging!