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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Center of attention

Facility adds Community Leadership Breakfast Series to list of activities

Bingo is no longer cutting it as the Southside Senior and Community Center figures out how to serve the surge of baby boomers while attracting people of all ages and continuing to engage the oldest generations.

The center has new board members and is searching for a new executive director who is eager to embrace the nonprofit’s idea to focus on being a community center, not just a place for seniors. 

This vision recently sparked the idea for a quarterly speaker series that board members hope will attract people of all ages to the center on the South Hill to hear from leaders in the community.

Former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt (1995-2005) will kick off the Community Leadership Breakfast Series on Aug. 26. Tickets are $25 and include a sit-down breakfast.

Nethercutt, 70, said his true passion is educating people, especially the younger generation, about American history and basic civics.

 In 1996, he started the George Nethercutt Foundation to foster an understanding of government and public policy.

Nethercutt plans to share a new Web-based civics test that he’s launching around the same time, with randomly selected questions from a pool of 450.

The test will be available to the public, and Nethercutt said he will ask all federal candidates to take the test and share their scores. If the candidates refuse, Nethercutt said he will release their names to the press.

“Sometimes these members of Congress don’t know some of the basic stuff,” he said. “I want to raise the education level of the country. I think it’s important we know our history so we don’t repeat mistakes of our past.”

Nethercutt is good natured about the quiz. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m not trying to put anybody in a bad light. I just think people ought to know.”

Nethercutt’s talk comes right after national Senior Citizen’s Day on Friday, so he will also discuss a few senior issues. 

It’s these type of conversations that board members hope will draw a good, engaged audience with a variety of ages and interests. The center can hold about 250 people.

“We want to fill the community roll more strongly,” said Jeff Olson, the center’s board president. 

“What is going to bring the community in our doors?”

Don’t worry, bingo and card games aren’t going anywhere. The center just wants to add new events and activities to include everyone, including the baby boomers who often don’t see themselves hanging out at a traditional senior center.

Olson said it is a trend across the nation for senior centers to reassess their missions as baby boomers age. Because the centers are membership driven, it’s important for them to attract new people and not just limit themselves to retirees.

Center board member Tim Behrens expects Nethercutt will get lots of questions asking him to quarterback the upcoming presidential and congressional elections. He said a hearty question-and-answer session is important to the success of the leadership series. The idea is to make community leaders accessible to the general public.

The second leadership breakfast is planned for Nov. 4 and will focus on health care in the Spokane region, especially with the opening of a medical school.

Speakers are Deb Harper, a specialist in pediatrics, and Lisa Brown, a former state senator who is the new chancellor of Washington State University Spokane and its fledgling medical school program. 

Other ideas for leadership breakfast topics are veterans issues and social services and even leadership in the local arts.

“This is a new idea,” said Behrens, a local humorist who joined the board three months ago. “It’s very refreshing.”

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