The Hancock County Senior Center
Offering meals, transportation, conversation, and a place to pursue artistic endeavors, this Center for Seniors is filled with surprises - and smiles.
- by Gus Duda
I heard about the Senior Center from a family member and was immediately interested because they said a bus would pick me up in the morning, could take me on errands and then bring me home again. I decided to check it out. I went over to the Center, met Arlene Johnson, the Center Director and signed up. Arlene told me that if I needed transportation just to let them know the day before and I would be picked up. I usually go in Mondays through Thursdays so I have a standing order unless I call and let them know I do not need a ride or if someone else is bringing me in. According to the Center the bus serves Bay Saint Louis, Waveland, Pearlington and some locations north of I-10.
Once we get to the center, our usual driver, Jimmy Rouse, gets us all safely offloaded and inside. Often the staff will have cereal and or other light breakfast items. The coffee pot is always on. The room you first walk into has a television and comfy chairs and sofas. Down the hall are workrooms for all the programs that are offered, art and ceramics, quilting, crafts, painting etc. Special events are announced as they come up such as sponsored off-site lunches, field trips, the annual blueberry picking excursion. The staff is equipped to help with tax returns and helping us with questions we might have.
Those who have errands to do or appointments to keep get a ride on the bus. Jimmy my usual driver is an employee of Coastal Transportation Service and a tremendous asset to the center. Always patient, caring and fun to be around Jimmy knows how to make everyone feel welcome. After we have lunch we get a ride home on the bus.
I did some research on the center because I was not here from the beginning and I like knowing the history of things. The Center is located at the corner of Old Spanish Trail and Bookter Street in Bay Saint Louis. It was established in 1972 by May Beyer, grandmother of Chuck Benvenutti. Eve McDonald served as the Center’s director from 1972 to 1992. The Center was located in a small classroom in the Valencia C. Jones School. I heard that she had to beg around for tables and chairs and later as the Center grew they were given more space.
When Eve retired Rosine Jushaway was asked to serve as director. Programs continued to be added and to grow. In the late 1990’s the City of Bay Saint Louis and the Hancock County Board of Supervisors worked together to develop the new Center as it appears today. The City built the structure and the County, through the Hancock County Human Resources Agency provides the programming.
Arlene was hired in 1985 to do arts and crafts and did such a fantastic job and was so loved by the seniors that she was given the director’s job in 2001 after Rosine died. After Hurricane Katrina I heard, the Center served as an emergency shelter in Bay Saint Louis. For about three months they provided food, clothes and shelter for more than 175 people. The building did get damaged during the storm. Repairs were made thanks to insurance proceeds and FEMA. Through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, the Center was able to expand, adding a dining area, an indoor walking track, and additional storage.
Today, the Center provides nutritious hot food for lunches, a place for the expression of art and companionship. We are about 40 people of various backgrounds sharing a meal, laughter and stories. We are taken good care of by Arlene, Trish, Jimmy and Michael, our chef and all the volunteers. It is nice to be out during the day and to have something to talk about when I get home.
If you are 60+ and would like to join us, we would love to have you. Just call the Center at 228.467.9292 or pop in at 601 Bookter to sign up. I’ll see you there.