Throughout the history of Faulkner County, there are stories about wise, elderly matriarchs and patriarchs who lived in the various communities. The weekly edition of the newspaper captured snapshots of their lives as birthdays were celebrated with dinners, picnics and other gatherings. Communities treasured these people and collectively saw to their needs.
As younger community members began to leave, often to find work, it became more challenging for the remaining community members but they continued to take care of each other as well as they could. Non-profit organizations eventually developed to help these senior citizens.
The Faulkner County Senior Citizens Program, sponsored by the Faulkner County Council on Aging, was established as a non-profit in 1972. Taking care of senior citizens of Faulkner County has been its priority for 45 years. Its mission is to identify and meet the social, nutritional and transportation needs of seniors. Its goal is to help them remain healthy, active and independent.
The first Conway Senior Citizen’s Center opened in the old Conway Memorial Hospital on the southeast corner of College and Western avenues in 1972. In 1976, the program got federal funding and moved to the Conway Housing Authority on Mitchell Street.
In 1980, it moved to 1620 Donaghey Avenue where it would remain until 2014 when the Ola and John Hawks Senior Wellness and Activity Center opened at 705 Siebenmorgen Road. The center is open weekdays for seniors to gather. The move has given them more space to expand the activities that are provided there.
There is a health and fitness center, an indoor walking track, a media room, a computer room, a music room as well as areas for conferences, classes, arts and craft and games. The central dining room also serves as a ballroom for dances.
Hot meals have been provided for years for those who come to the Center but thousands of meals have also been prepared and sent out through the Meals on Wheels program. Hundreds of seniors in the county are provided with daily meals. Family members also come to the centers and pick up frozen meals for others out in the county who can’t come to the centers.
In 1977, an old house was donated six miles east of Greenbrier for a senior citizens center. The center moved downtown in 1980 and in 1997, the city of Greenbrier got a grant to purchase and renovate the old Greenbrier Church of Christ building on Broadview. Open every weekday, this center now has its own kitchen and prepares meals for both Greenbrier and Twin Grove seniors.
Most recently, grants have helped create a community garden behind the center. A butterfly/pollinator garden and compost bins have been set up along with raised beds to allow Greenbrier residents to grow and harvest a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Mayflower opened up a Senior Citizens Center in 1990 in the Methodist Church fellowship hall. It was only open one day a week at first but within a year, it is now open three days a week. In 1993, the city of Mayflower got a grant to build a center in front of City Hall on Ashmore Street which opened in 1994.
The Vilonia Senior Center opened in 1995 in the First United Methodist Church there. The seniors ate potluck meals until the Conway center began furnishing meals on Wednesdays. In 1998, the city of Vilonia got a grant to build a center at 10 Bise Street. Open weekdays, meals are now prepared there for seniors.
There are also senior centers in two smaller communities in Faulkner County. Twin Groves opened up its senior citizen center in 1995. It is open Tuesdays and Fridays. The Mount Vernon Center is open Wednesday and Friday mornings. Mt. Vernon senior citizens who come to that center are served breakfast.
The Faulkner County Council on Aging, along with a host of volunteers, continues to improve its services to the seniors of the county, providing them with meals as well as helping them stay active and connected to other seniors through social activities.
Senior citizens are a treasure to the community. They have made significant contributions to creating, developing and maintaining the things that make Conway and Faulkner County a great place to live. Look around you and make sure the seniors in your area are being cared for and are taking advantage of all that is available to them through the senior citizen centers in each town.
Cindy Burnett Beckman is a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history. She may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.