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Senior Center Spotlight — Ider

If you want a quiet, hum drum place to pass the time, then the Ider Senior Center is not the place for you.

“We like to laugh and cut up,” Sharon Culpepper, the center manager, said. “We pick on one another in a fun way and we don’t expect you to do anything except what you want to do and feel like doing.”

The center is in a building that originally was a grocery store and restaurant before it became the town’s gathering spot for seniors. It’s at the Alabama Highway 117 and Dogwood Drive intersection, which was once the location of town’s four-way stop. Today, the 4-way stop is just up the road at the Alabama Highway 75 intersection.

Polly Adkin

On a recent Thursday morning, Polly Adkins, 87, is working on a puzzle, while Rook card games are underway at two nearby tables. This is a slow-paced day compared to Tuesdays, which are BINGO days that draw in a larger crowd. But today, the conversations and games are friendly.

Jackie Frazier, 76, Helen Landers, 77, Sherry Landers and her twin sister Terri Landers, both 41, are playing for bragging rights.

Helen said playing cards and the fellowship of being able to talk to others makes the center enjoyable.

At the next table over, Rickey Garner, 67, his mother Beatrice Garner, 90, and Frankie Durham, 70, are just playing for fun with a ghost player for their fourth player.

From left, Rickey Garner, Beatrice Garner, Frankie Durham

As the oldest participant at the center, Beatrice says she’s come to the center on an off for many years.

“I love coming because it makes me get out of the bed and go instead of wearing my housecoat and gown until I get back in the bed again,” Beatrice said. “It’s easy to stay at home and just hibernate so this gives me a reason to keep going.”

Frankie is one of the newest center participants. He stopped by one day to see how it works because he thought it would be good for one of his relatives. “She doesn’t come all the time, but I come all I can,” Frankie said. “The people here keep me coming back, these are all good people.”

Rickey said his mother got him started about two years ago.

“I enjoy meeting people and playing cards or whatever game it is, I like to play,” he added.

Lunch is served around 11. Today it’s a chicken noodle casserole, sauteed tomatoes, peas and carrots, a whole wheat roll and white cake.

Craig Nichols

Craig Nichols, 69, started coming to the center in February after a neighbor told him about the hot lunches. He comes in before lunch with a thick novel about Pearl Harbor. Craig said he doesn’t care for playing cards or puzzles, but he loves to read, so he finds himself a comfortable spot and reads until lunch is ready.

He moved to Ider in 2006 from Wisconsin to be closer to his son and his family in Fort Payne.

Craig has traveled the world, often to run marathons. He likes the Ider area but lost everything in the 2011 tornadoes, including his beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, Muffin. He’s slowly rebuilding his book collection but hasn’t considered a new dog yet because he’s considering a move to Belize. He has a fiancée there.

As a bachelor, he said cooking meals for one isn’t his thing. Coming to the center for lunch satisfies a need and he can get out of the house for a bit and sit and read while he’s there.

The Ider Senior Center nourishes with food, provides social interaction, and it’s also filled with people who encourage one another.

At age 41, twins Sherry and Terri Landers aren’t seniors yet, but they come to the center everyday with their half-sister, Helen. The sisters each have a different form of cancer but maintain a positive outlook and have a lot of support from the center.

Terri and Sherri Landers

Jackie said she’s lived in Ider about 40 years and been coming to the Senior Center for almost 16 years. She loves the fellowship and playing cards, even when her team gets beat.

Jackie Frazier

While everyone was busy with their activities, a man stopped by to talk with Sharon about bringing a music program back to the center.

“We had a music program before Covid and it was very popular so I’m excited that he stopped by,” Sharon said. “I told him he could come any day between 9 and 10 a.m. so I’m hopeful this works out for our center because I’d love to bring back our music program.”

She’s always looking for ways to improve the center’s offerings.

Sharon Culpepper

Sharon said she was the 13th child of 15 siblings. Her father died when she was 12 and her mother died when Sharon was 33 and there will still 8 children still at home. Being at the center makes her feel like she has a “thousand” mothers and fathers.

“I love on them, and they love on me,” and it fills a big void in her life.

“When I first got here seven to eight years ago, I told them I am not here to manage you but to take care of this place to keep it open and running for them,” Sharon added.

Ider is a small town of about 730 people located on top of Sand Mountain in DeKalb County, where it has an active Senior Center. About 16 percent of the of town’s population are 65 and older.

Joyce Hicks

During the week, depending on the day, the center provides nine to 12 hot meals and delivers 16 meals to homebound participants.

Tuesdays are the busiest days in Ider because that’s BINGO Day. Every other day includes card games, puzzles, occasional group trips, “and just whatever they want to do. If we don’t already have it here, I’ll find it,” Sharon added.The community and its leadership are also supportive of the center, with the Mayor Wendy Lassetter donating rocking chairs and ferns for the front porch,

The Senior Center also serves as polling site for Ider voters. Joyce Hicks, 81, said she dropped in one day to see what the center was about and now she comes every chance she gets.

For more information about the Ider Senior Center, call 256-632-3367.

Ider Senior Center