The Ride of a Lifetime

Margaret Allen on Billy Goat Trail.

On the third page of the November/December 1985 issue of The Quill, the monthly newsletter of the Rocky River Senior Center, appeared an article, Spotlight on People - “Welcome aboard Margaret Allen, a new minibus driver.” Thus began my 28-year career at the center.

How excited I was to be driving this huge vehicle and giving seniors rides around town. Grocery shopping day was a favorite. I drove clients to the store as they informed me of the best buys of the week at Rego’s or Heinen’s. I updated my new friends on what was going on at the senior center, and they shared what was going on in their corners of Rocky River.

I learned more than a few things on these drives. One day three women in the back seat were talking about a woman I had just dropped off at the supermarket. This woman had dated the departed husband of one of the ladies in the back seat…50 years ago. These women were still angry with her! I chuckled then, but over the years, I have found that some things never change. When it comes to matters of the heart, women don’t forget.

In January 1989, I was hired as the Activity/Program Coordinator. I immediately adopted the motto: If we don’t offer it, I’ll certainly try to find it. Since then, I have had the ride of a lifetime.

The front desk was staffed with volunteers working in two four-hour shifts. I remember a volunteer arriving at 9 a.m. for her shift and promptly standing up at 10 a.m. to announce, “It’s time for me to leave, my cleaning lady is coming!” Today the front desk is in a constant spin and staffed by two part-time employees.

Volunteers have always been the heart and soul of the center. Retired men and women from all walks of life, as well as high school and college students, share their knowledge and make the center a comfortable place for everyone. The center could not function without them.

Transportation assistance has increased, with five vehicles servicing 1,200 registered riders. And oh, how the level of activity inside the center has climbed over the last 28 years. Classes are held daily in every room, requiring frequent and quick setup changes throughout the day to accommodate instructors. The auditorium hosts many different programs, including special evening events.

An amazing roster of professional consultants provide presentations and educational programs. An example of their great work was related to me by a woman who moved to Cleveland from southern Ohio. She came into the center using a walker - and didn’t know a soul. Less than a year later, she stands tall and walks without a cane. She credits the turnaround to the instructors who lead the arthritis exercise class and the Tai Chi class. It was gratifying to see her the other day, on her way to join her friends in the dining area for lunch.

Did I mention lunch? In 1985 the kitchen was open a few days a week. Today, every weekday the kitchen staff serve 40 to 120 one hour. What an operation! 

A Star is Born

I have been involved with the Play Readers since 1997. I enjoyed my role working behind the scenes to help the performances come to life. Occasionally, I even found myself in some unusual starring roles.

In 1998 the Play Readers put on its first performance. It was also my stage debut - as a parrot. A HUGE parrot costume was rented, but unfortunately the gentleman playing the parrot got claustrophobic inside it. I took over the part and danced on stage…as he read his lines offstage. My next performance was as a rapper, a role no one else knew how to play. I went to Goodwill and found a red hip-hop hat and red-and-white striped pants to get myself fully in character. I delivered my first and last speaking lines as a Play Reader.

Always a promoter, the Play Readers will perform on Thursday, December 5, at 1 p.m. As for me, you can catch my next act on Mondays, on stage, tap dancing!

Come on board at the Rocky River Senior Center and you too may have the ride of a lifetime!

Margaret Allen

Margaret Allen is the Program Coordinator at the Rocky River Senior Center. She will retire on December 20.

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Volume 1, Issue 6, Posted 1:02 PM, 11.27.2013