As with anything worthwhile, Queensbury Senior Citizens, Inc. started with one person’s desire to fill a need.
Queensbury resident Arthur Turnbull felt there was a lack of programs and services for senior citizens in the town of Queensbury. Through his prompting, the Queensbury Town Board formed a Senior Citizens Committee in January 1980. The next month, 60 seniors appeared before the Town Board to request senior citizen programs and a meeting place.
On March 7, 1980 a group of more than 100 like-minded seniors met at the Town Hall to discuss their future as a viable organization. The first slate of officers was elected and membership cards were distributed to more than 90 charter members. With the assistance of Sidney VanDusen, the group’s first regular monthly meeting was held March 17th at the Mohican Grange Hall.
At the first meeting, the earliest signs of a vigorous organization were evident. Movies were shown; a travel agent proposed trips; Harry Hansen, the Town’s Recreation Director offered a trip to the Saratoga Race Track; an Arts and Crafts group planned a craft sale and plans were made to furnish the Grange kitchen with needed supplies.
Within two months, plans were made to incorporate and contacts were made with State Assemblywoman Joan Hague and Director of the Warren County Office for the Aging, Louis Spellman. The Certificate of Incorporation was filed April 28, 1980.
The group then moved to set the stage for more programs by adopting its Statement of Purpose: To endeavor to promote good will and fellowship through social, educational, recreational and charitable purposes beneficial to the public interest and community.
The next few years found the seniors setting up their programs, looking for transportation and seeking a home base. A used limousine was purchased but it quickly became overly costly to maintain. Meetings were held In the Glens Falls National Bank Community Room, at the Mohican Grange Hall, the West Glens Falls Chapel and the West Glens Falls Fire House.
Fundraisers were held to establish a Capital Fund Account and the seniors began a search for land to be used as a site for a new senior building. For a time, hope centered on a house at Havey Pond but it was found to be uninhabitable.
By March 1983, membership had tripled to 301, the Hovey Pond house had been rejected and the Town seemed to have no interest in helping the organization find a home of its own. At this point Arthur Turnbull declared, we do not intend to go down, or give up and win continue to fight for our rights.” At the end of the year, the seniors approached the Town Supervisor and once again outlined their need for a permanent home.
In 1985, the seniors offered to buy an acre of land near the Town Hall but were turned down. Participation had increased to the point that the West Glens Falls Fire House was too small for the larger meetings. To facilitate the search for a permanent home, a building committee was formed and began looking at other senior centers.
In June 1986, the Town Board promised the seniors the use of a new building, possibly ready for occupancy in 1987. The seniors began to seriously discuss the need for a part-time director/coordinator. Membership continued to grow and topped 400.
In 1988, as progress was made toward completion of the new Center, a Center Advisory Committee was formed consisting of representatives of the seniors, the Town Board, the Facilities Manager and Recreation Director. They were to meet periodically to discuss any problems regarding the use of the Center. The seniors agreed to use funds from the capital account to purchase tables, chairs and related furnishings for the building. In May of 1988, the Executive Board toured the new building for the first time. Supplies were moved from the West Glens Falls Fire House to the new senior room at the Queensbury Center. Eleanor Oudekerk was hired on a part time basis as coordinator and began working in July. In September of the same year, Barbara Howe became assistant coordinator.
1989 saw increases in participation and programs; by the end of the year membership had grown to 783. It was also in this year a new milestone was reached, the seniors received notice of their first, major bequest from the Lorraine McNally Estate.
10 years after the vision was of a senior organization was first articulated, Queensbury Senior Citizens was well settled in its new home at the Queensbury Center. A recreation room was created downstairs, a pool table was donated and carpet installed. The seniors requested, from the Town, installation of signs and a dropdown screen at the Center. Other equipment was purchased and an open house for the Recreation Room was set.
Membership continued to grow; by December there were 986 members on the books and more than 100 typically showed up for regular monthly meetings.
In 1991, just 11 years after its inception, the club had grown over 10-fold to 1095 members. The use of the Center (which was shared by the Town Boards, the Recreation Department and the public) had grown to the point that it was necessary for the Advisory Committee to develop a Center Use Policy and set rental rates for private use of the building.
In 1992, after a change in Town Administration, office hours were cut back and the assistant coordinator left to work for another town department. However, membership and activities at the Center continued to increase. As a result the seniors drafted a recommendation to the Town Board stressing the accomplishments and community involvement of the senior organization and requesting reinstatement of a coordinator to work 20 to 30 hours a week with the office being open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In December, the Town appointed a coordinator, Joanne Hicks, to work from 9 to 1 only. By now the membership had reached 1,210 members and volunteers were needed to staff the office in the afternoon.
In 1993, the seniors received federal approval as a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. They purchased a new copier for the office, paid to install food warming lights in the kitchen and purchased new coffee urns. Once again the Advisory Committee met to discuss the need for a full-time person in the office. By December there were 1289 members and the newsletter went to 377 homes.
Barbara Howe returned to work as part time coordinator and the office remained staffed at a part time level until 1995 when the Town Board agreed to hire a full time Senior Citizens Coordinator to manage the office and coordinate the senior programs. After extensive interviews with several candidates, the seniors, led by Betty Spadaro, elected Kathleen Kathe. She was appointed by the Town Board and began work in July of 1995. The office was opened from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week. The membership was 1392.
As years went by the seniors not only purchased furniture for the Center, they contributed half the cost of air conditioning the building and provided all the picnic tables in the picnic grove. Jim Palmer, local artist and valued member, painted the four-season murals on the walls in the downstairs recreation room. He was assisted by Ruth lynch, Ruth Ross and his wife, Marion Palmer.
In 1991, the picnic grove was enhanced by the town’s placement of a paved ramp at its entrance. In 1997, barbecue grills were installed and a portable outside shuffleboard court was laid in the picnic area. The seniors purchased the TVs in the Activity room and installed new bookcases in the lounge.
When the club held its 20th anniversary dinner in 2000, there were 1700 members. In December 2000, the long Range Planning Committee was appointed to once again search for a permanent home for the seniors. At that time, new senior housing developments were expected to impact activities at the Center; the membership was growing; and the building was being used more often by town departments, state and county officials and public organizations.
In 2003, the dues Issue was resurrected and approved by the membership as a means more clearly to identify the members actively involved or supportive of the mission of the Queensbury Senior Citizens. December 2004 closed with an active membership (as defined by payment of annual dues) of 787 members.
As participation in activities at the Queensbury Center increased, the Long Range Committee determined that it would be difficult to continue using volunteers to develop programs and activities. The Executive Board agreed and in 2004, the seniors hired and paid their first employee-Activity Director, Melissa Pagnotta. She worked 15 hours a week to plan and implement programs, workshops and activities for the seniors.
As we celebrated our 25th Anniversary in 2005, our paid membership numbers were 810 and newsletters were mailed to 624 homes. We’ve seen many program changes and members have come and gone. We are very fortunate that we continue to have an excellent core of dedicated volunteers working to keep us alive and well.
It took eight years for the vision of a “home” for Queensbury Seniors to be realized. It took eight years of an incredible amount of time and talent and perseverance on the part of volunteers to solidify and expand our mission as we moved from place to place and finally settled in at the Queensbury Center. It took that many years for the various Town Boards and officials to recognize the value of a large segment of the town’s population and provide it with the use of a Center that we can call home.
The Town’s generosity and cooperation since the opening of the Queensbury Center is without equal anywhere in the area. For that, Queensbury senior citizens will always be indebted. In this time of transition, it is our hope that as our vision of the future for Queensbury Senior Citizens, Inc., develops it will be as well received by future town leaders.