Fort Sanders Senior Expo attracts crowd

Apr. 26, 2014 @ 11:41 PM

There was a large turnout Friday when the Fort Sanders Sevier Senior Center hosted Senior Expo. About 300 seniors registered in advance, and others showed up without prior registration. The parking lot filled quickly, and many guests were parked in the grass and alongside the entrance and sidewalks.

“It’s great to get this many people over here,” volunteer Ron Trent said. “It’s surprising, we still have many locals who drive by and think it’s a nursing home. It’s a very active senior center, and folks here have a lot of fun.”

Trent was manning a booth that dispensed information about the senior center, as well as T-shirts and hats for sale. Many other tables were set up with a variety of vendors offering services for seniors. Trent said he hopes new seniors will start coming to the center regularly once they see everything it has to offer.

“Instead of going to McDonalds, come eat lunch over here,” he said. “It’s $4 for a well-balanced lunch, and you can be around other seniors and all the activities we have going on here.”

Kathy Sherrard of Appalachian Bear Rescue said she was surprised at how many people came to the expo. “I would say surely everyone sees this as a success,” she said.

Colleen Scott has been coming to the center for five years, and she said that this was the most impressive event she has seen hosted there.

“All of the vendors are really nice, taking the names and numbers of all the seniors to call them back and help,” Scott said. “And there’s so much here. I renewed a newspaper subscription and signed up for a library card.”

Scott, who lives in Wears Valley, is originally from Louisiana and is still involved in senior activities there. She said she is able to get valuable information and ideas from the center, which she then uses in Louisiana.

“They’re young, Jane and David, but they care,” Scott said, referencing Director Jane Howes and Assistant Director David Hawkins. “I’ve seen some very positive changes here.”

Scott, who is also part of a senior program at the Pigeon Forge Community Center called JOY, said the companionship like-minded seniors develop by coming together in these programs stands out to her.

“Unfortunately, a lot of our children and grandchildren, they’re not as family-oriented,” she said. “This is it — the bonds we have here last.”

Despite the large number of vendors at the expo, Scott said she believes more local organizations should make a concerted effort to work with seniors.

“Hey, why not look at seniors?” she said. “I think a lot of people have forgotten us, and I’m retired military. I know what it feels like to be forgotten. It’s disconcerting to see discounts, not for vets or seniors, but for college students. Helping children is fantastic, and I’m all for that, but seniors need help too.”

jold@themountainpress.com