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Senior Center Spotlight — Tanner

Tanner Senior Center participants on a recent Tennessee River outing.

Imagine a hot summer day, a pontoon boat on the Tennessee River, and fishing off its banks.

Participants at the Tanner Senior Center in Limestone County enjoyed an impromptu day like that recently at Joe Wheeler State Park, plus a group lunch outing at Fuqua’s Southern Soul Food in Rogersville.

“It was really nice,” said Martha McWilliams, 72. “And I caught a fish, or at least I thought I had a fish, for the first time — ever!”

Martha is one of the newer participants at the center, going for about a year now.

“I call ‘em old folks down here even though I’m older than most of the ones here,” Martha said laughing. “I don’t usually stay all day, but I like to get out of the house. I go to the gym and workout, and I come here to the center. I like Bingo and being around other people.

“And sometimes, I get them to dance,” Martha added.

Sitting next to her is Pat Southard, 70. She’s been going to the Tanner center for about two and a half years, but beforehand she went to the Athens center for nearly eight years until it changed to an Activity Center only.

“We have fun here,” Pat said. “We play cards, sing, dance, and meet and greet people.”

Pat Southard and Martha McWilliams at the Tanner Senior Center

She added that since Martha started coming, she’s the “clown of the center,” always bringing fun.

There’s a lot of fun-loving personalities that shine bright at the Tanner Senior Center. But a friendly competitive spirit emerges when the Bingo cards come out.

“I have to have one with a 66 or 7 on it,” Pat said.

“I gotta find me one with a 74 or 66 on it,” Martha added looking through the cards.

Those are their “winning” or “lucky” numbers. Janie Anders, 77, has a different strategy. She balanced her Bingo card on her knees and picked it to play as she worked a puzzle on the table.

Janie Anders

Why do people come?

Thomas Kirk, 77, and his wife Martha, 72, have been coming to the center for about two years.

“We just came to the center one day and kept coming back,” Thomas said. “We have a good time and I like everybody here.”

Thomas and Martha Kirk

Sitting with the Kirks is Greg Whittier, 64, who has been a center participant for four years, following a brain injury.

“Coming here gives me something that I can do,” Greg said. “It’s a good place.”

He enjoys working on puzzles, playing solitaire and games on the computer.

“I enjoy the food,” Greg added.

Greg Whittier

Rhonda Barbour, 70, said her daughter-in-law suggested going to the center might be good for her.

“Now I look forward to coming and I try to come all the time,” Wanda said. “I don’t get to see anybody at home and coming here is being with friends.”

Retirement and food

Rhonda Barbour

Smiling, Annie Swinney said at one time she was 55 and now she’s up to 73 years old.

Annie has been attending the Tanner Center for 10 years. She started after she retired.

Annie Swinney

“When the plant closed, I started coming here,” she said. “I enjoy coming together, having friends, playing games, especially Bingo. But there’s a lot of activity here.”

Mary Jane Hammer, 75, said she enjoys the food and especially the group trips to restaurants.

“I love going to Mildred’s in Ardmore,” Mary Jane said. “But the fact is, we have plenty of food here, every day!”

Mary Jane Hammer


About the center

Sharon Davis has been the center manager for three and a half years but has a long history in Tanner where she has also worked as a bus driver and homemaker.

“I know everyone from driving the bus and I love them, and I love it here,” Sharon said. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

Each weekday, the center provides 15 to 20 hot meals, and another 40 Meals on Wheels are delivered through a dedicated network of volunteers from the Mental Health Center, Birdie Thornton Center, retirees and homeschooled students.

Sharon said the center features a variety of activities, like the recent outing to Joe Wheeler State Park, which was organized by the Limestone County Council on Aging.

She said newcomers are always welcome at the Tanner Senior Center.

“Just call or better yet just stop by.”

Tanner Senior Center, 13589 Lucas Ferry Road, Athens, 256-230-6400

Sharon Davis, manager, Tanner Senior Center


Bus drivers Cathy Robertson and Leslie Williams help transport participants to and from the Tanner Senior Center.


A game of Skyjo underway at the Tanner Senior Center