BANGOR, Maine — Stories, photographs, laughter and dozens of cakes filled the halls as more than 170 seniors gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Hammond Street Senior Center on March 4.
“The Hammond Street Senior Center is a very valued resource in our region and a true gem in the city of Bangor,” said City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer. “And where do you keep your most prized valuables? In a bank, of course,” he said jokingly, making reference to the Senior Center’s reuse of what was once Merrill Trust Bank as he stood in front of a large vault that has been transformed into a gift shop.
Palmer presented a framed proclamation from the city recognizing the 10th anniversary of the senior center and the contributions it makes to the physical, intellectual, social and emotional well-being of area seniors.
Palmer, a member of the City Council when the Hammond Street Senior Center was established and now a “senior” himself, has both officially and personally witnessed the growth and development of the organization during his own tenure as a public servant and Bangor resident.
Founded in 1999 through the generosity and foresight of real estate developer and business entrepreneur John Couri and his wife, Elaine, the Hammond Street Senior Center opened with a fitness center in Norumbega Hall on Harlow Street and limited activities and social space at 2 Hammond St.
The hope was to attract 500 members. During its first 10 years, more than 3,000 people joined. Active membership holds steady at some 1,700 and more than 26,000 visits logged annually.
Now consolidated at 2 Hammond St., the senior center fills every inch of the historic bank building overlooking Kenduskeag Stream downtown.
The Senior Center also has been outfitted to contain all the conveniences and amenities that its members want — a spacious fitness center, classrooms, an art studio, pottery studio, sewing studio, dance studio, yoga room, projection screen media room, computer lab with free high-speed Internet, a baby grand piano, billiards and game room, dining area and ample cozy corners filled with overstuffed chairs, bright sunshine and the daily newspaper.
“The senior center is more like a club, really,” said Executive Director Kathy Bernier. “The word ‘senior’ just indicates that a person has to have reached a certain age chronologically before they are eligible to be a member. The majority of our members don’t consider themselves to be ‘seniors’ — and most certainly don’t act the way one would expect that designation to imply.”
Membership to the senior center is free and open to anyone at least 60 who lives in the Bangor area. Membership is extended to spouses and partners who are at least 55.
For information about Hammond Street Senior Center, call 262-5532. Courses and activities and a virtual tour are available at www.hammondstreet.org.