October is going to be an eventful month for Grand Central. The Newton senior center will have a booth at the Taste of Newton for the first time, it will be hosting an inaugural Halloween Dance on Oct. 28 and, to top it all off, the organization will be celebrating its 30th anniversary — with festivities planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 19.
Currently, the itinerary for the open house event includes cake and punch, displays of slideshows and scrapbooks archiving Grand Central's history, speeches from staff and a possible spotlight on some of the activities offered, according to Director Leslie Runnalls.
"It's a way to celebrate and it's something for the community to be aware of, how long we have been here and we hope to continue being here for many more years," Runnalls said. "We just want to give everybody a good taste of what Grand Central's all about."
Originally a community improvement project initiated by the Newton Area Retired Teachers Association in 1984, the endeavor of creating a gathering space for local seniors was helped along by several organizations. Through those efforts, grant funds were received and the former Kansas Gas and Electric Building at Grand Central's current site (122 E. Sixth St.) was purchased, with center officially being dedicated on Nov. 12, 1987. The Grand Central title was then officially adopted in 2015.
Joint efforts from those early founders also showed a lot of foresight, according to Grand Central board President Betty Lanzrath, in just how integral such a facility would be — especially with a senior community that makes up roughly 15 percent of Newton's population.
"I feel like they really did something that was important for our community, for our seniors and our community," Lanzrath said.
Partnership remains key to Grand Central's current operations, both in helping maintain facilities and branching out to continue providing opportunities for local senior citizens to gather and remain active and engaged (like welcoming in Newton Fire/EMS Chief Scott Metzler for an educational presentation recently). Having those opportunities, like the anniversary celebration itself, not only help Grand Central achieve its mission, but it's something Runnalls said she has seen generate excitement among regular patrons.
"I think everybody's really looking forward to having it. I think the people who come in here, our participants who come here about every day, they get excited about having stuff here and jump in and helps us with things usually," Runnalls said. "This is just a place for people as they age to keep getting educated, keep staying active and learn new things."
Educating the public about Grand Central's existence is also a focal point of the celebration, as Runnalls stated it is a resource that can often get overlooked.
As more people age into the demographic (65 and older) the senior center targets with its various activities, the hope is they (and even the younger generations) will become aware of what Grand Central offers — offerings that Runnalls is continuing to work to expand. That awareness starts with public events like the anniversary celebration.
"(They can see) just some good hospitality here from us folks here at Grand Central to welcome them, get them better acquainted with who we are, what we do here and just have a good time together," Runnals said.
Having that awareness also helps generate support for the facility, something Lanzrath continues to be grateful for in helping Grand Central continue to uphold its mission to a growing sector of the population.
"Myself and my fellow board members are honored that we can carry on this tradition and we appreciate all the support the community has provided," Lanzrath said, "whether it's a donation or just participation in our events, supporting the senior citizens here in Newton."
For more information on the 30th anniversary celebration, call Grand Central at 283-2222.