The Good Times Still Roll

The Carlin Open Door Senior Center celebrates four decades of hospitality

By Dianna Troyer

Carlin Open Door Senior Center clients can always find someone to play cards or other games. Photos by Lonnie Brown
Carlin Open Door Senior Center clients can always find someone to play cards or other games. Photos by Lonnie Brown

Like gourmet cheeses and fine wine, the Carlin Open Door Senior Center gets better with age. Since opening for lunch in the basement of the local Methodist Church 40 years ago, the center’s programs have become remarkably diversified and vibrant.

“You can find all kinds of activities here besides our daily lunches,” says Ella Trujillo, executive director of the not-for-profit center. “People are playing bingo or cards or taking weekly tai chi classes or studying the Bible on Wednesday mornings.”

One-time classes about driver safety and nutrition have been offered, too.

“Every Thursday, a bus takes seniors to Elko for appointments and shopping,” Ella says. “A bus on Wednesday takes people around Carlin. We plan special recreational trips, too.”

Staff and clients commemorated the center’s 40th anniversary August 15 with a party for nearly 100 celebrants and gold balloons that spelled “Fun at 40.”

Judy Bradshaw, a longtime volunteer and president of the center’s board of directors, says local residents count on the center for organizing popular community celebrations, including a turkey shoot with bingo, chili and homemade pies scheduled for the first Saturday of November.

“The local riding club used to sponsor it, but since its membership declined, the senior center has organized it for the past few years,” says Ella. “When I was in college, I’d come back home for it. “At times, the center has taken up the flag and sponsored events when groups were no longer able to organize them.”

The center will host a Harry Potter-themed party on Halloween with classes on making wands. The center also hosts a Christmas party with Santa, cookies and hot chocolate. The center is not only a place to celebrate holidays, it also is a vital part of local residents’ daily routine. Yearround from Monday through Friday, dozens of seniors drop by the center for lunch at noon. Ella says about 50 lunches are prepared fresh daily for clients who either eat there or are homebound. “For me, the center is a blessing,” says Ken McCullough, 81, who has lunch delivered to his home. “The cooks are wonderful, it’s clean and the people are friendly like a big family.” Before becoming homebound, Ken volunteered at the center. He and others helped with a fundraising program to collect aluminum cans and take them to a recycling center.

Residents can still drop off cans at the center. The center, known for its welcoming staff and friendly clients, would please founders Jim and Eunice Bennett, says Judy.

The Bennetts and some friends recognized the need for a center and started it in the basement of the Methodist Church on August 15, 1977. “They met twice a week for lunch, which cost 25 cents,” says Judy. “Anyone was welcome.

After two years, enough people were coming that they moved into the former elementary school.” In 2004, a new $850,000 energy efficient center was built at 320 Chestnut St. with donations and grants from several organizations.

Wells Rural Electric Co. supported the project and did electrical work.

Ella, an attorney, says when she first visited the center a few years ago, she was impressed with the staff and programs. She had been visiting senior centers in northern Nevada to offer legal advice while working for the Nevada Legal Services’ office in Elko. She reconnected with childhood friends, former teachers and clients on her newspaper route. “When this job opened a year ago, I applied,” says Ella, 33. “And here I am back in my hometown. Most people remember me as a girl. Now they’re getting to know me as an adult.

I really enjoy visiting with seniors and helping them.” Ken encourages seniors to drop by the center to visit even if they might feel shy or hesitant. “You won’t find a better place,” he says. “People help each other out. I highly recommend it.”

The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with lunch served at noon.