By Greg Ritchie
GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Senior Citizens and Events Center was recently reborn, with a new board of directors eager to get the center active again in the community, bringing back some of the traditional events and proposing some new ones, too.
The center, located at 112 Church Street had not been as active in recent years, since many of those keeping it running had moved on or been unable to continue to participate. It got so bad, in fact, there were no longer enough members to even have a meeting, leading to very little activity, at all.
After seeing an ad in The Messenger calling residents to a meeting for the community to get involved and get the center back going again, Henry Haws decided to put his name up for possible nomination to the board.
“I knew positions needed to be filled and participation was dwindling, but I was working out of town. I really wished I would have taken the time to step up a little earlier, but I completely retired in January, 2022, which enabled me to get involved.”
Haws was elected Chairman of the Board, one of five people voted to support the center, with two positions still to be filled. Balis Dailey was elected President.
Linda Neel had been running the center, almost singlehandedly, for several years and was ready for some help – and a break.
“Linda was here for 12 years dealing with the center, and she just needed a change. She was tired. She had done a lot of it all herself; on her own shoulders,” Haws explained. “They didn’t think they were going to be able to keep it running. We didn’t think anybody would be interested in helping. They were trying to form enough of a board to actually see if they could either give the center to another 501-C3 or give it to the city, because they didn’t think they would be able to keep the doors open.”
The group has already coordinated with the Grapeland Noon Lions Club to hold their fish fry for Veterans Day, with other plans to get the center to become a second-home for local senior citizens, along with its use as an event center.
“We have a different vision. We didn’t want to see it go the way it was going. We thought we could give it one more try and see if we could keep it operating on its own, independent from the city,” Haws explained. “ We’re hoping to be able to stay motivated and move it in a direction where it will be able to continue to stand on its own and benefit and support the citizens of the of the area within the Grapeland Independent School District.”
The center plans to offer some hot lunches, sandwiches, chili – in the beginning, a few days a week – and expand, gradually. Currently, Haws’ wife Diane will be at the center Tuesdays and Thursdays and is offering dance classes and light exercise for those interested.
“The long term dream is to see it get to the point where we actually would be serving a hot meal for lunch Monday through Friday. Where we have a clinic or urgent care do medical checks for seniors. We are working on getting the internet back in the building so we can try to get some computers in here,” Haws concluded.
For more information on upcoming events or how you can help, contact Mr. Haws at 936-546-6914.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]