Through the efforts of a dedicated few, the Fulton County Senior Centers have expanded to include three satellite centers, government sponsored programs and three vans as well as countless friends and shared memories.
Today, the centers continue to be in operation, in large part, because of many dedicated volunteers, according to Fulton County Senior Center Coordinator Connie Godwin.
Godwin said the late Retie Short and the late Madeline Scott are the reason a center was ever established in Fulton County.
The two women began working for a center in Salem after visiting one in Hot Springs, Godwin said.
After a single visit to the Hot Springs center, she said Short and Scott contacted then Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus about state help in starting a Salem Senior Center, but were quickly shot down due to the relatively small Salem population. "This did not stop the two determined ladies ... with the help of the Salem Sorosis Club and Mayor J.D. Gleghorn, they went to work and proved they could move mountains," Godwin said.
In 1962, through persistence and hard work and some help from the state Office on Aging, the Salem Senior Center opened on the east side of the Salem court square, and in 1968 it was established as a non-profit organization.
Forty-five years later, the center is still going strong. In 1990 fund raisers and help from the county allowed for a new Salem center to be built along Church Street. A continually increasing attendance at the Mammoth Spring branch, gave way to another new center. In 1999 a senior citizen's building was built in Mammoth Spring for seniors in that area. In Viola, the city has pitched in, allowing the Viola City Hall/Community Building to be used for Viola Senior Center activities.
Despite a drastic cut in state funding and the rising cost of operations, the Fulton County Senior Centers provide about 125 in-house meals and 100 home delivered meals every Monday through Friday.
Besides offering seniors a home-cooked meal every weekday, the senior centers provide a variety of activities.
Every holiday is celebrated with a party and special meal. Seniors have the opportunity to participate in sewing groups and to meet at the center for weekly sessions of low impact aerobics. And dominoes, card games and story-telling can always be found going on at the centers, Godwin said.
She said that without assistance from the county, some area banks and thankless help from various volunteers, the services provided by the senior centers would cease to exist. "I know we're fortunate to still be going like we are," Godwin said. "The county and cities and fundraisers are what has kept us going."
Godwin said the Fulton County centers sell Avon products and host an annual fish fry during Memorial Day Weekend. The Mammoth Spring center holds a bake sale every April, and the Salem building can be rented to host large groups. "We're not trying to get ahead, just keep the doors open," Godwin said of the various fund-raising endeavors.
And why all the effort? Godwin said the answer is simple.
"This is a family here. Just about everyone here is some type of volunteer in some way. All of the regulars -- they all do a little something to keep us going," she said. "And we've got to have something (for senior citizens). To a lot, it gives them something to do. That alone is important enough, to give someone a purpose."