Campbell Community Center Building a place for everyone

Ben Schorzman | Content coordinator, City of Eugene Recreation

MJ Fuselier loves the surprise of opening a new Eugene Rec guide for the first time. The possibility for new experiences seem boundless.

When the Guide hits her mailbox, she opens to the last 30 pages where the senior sections are nestled.

"It's like a little gift in the ol' stocking," Fuselier says.

With more than 169 activities geared specifically for people ages 50 and older, Fuselier says Eugene Rec, and specifically Campbell Community Center, are a haven for retirees looking to stay active.

"Where else can I go as a senior and go to a class every Monday, go on day trips and go hiking?" she says.

The 2017 Winter-Spring Rec Guide is now available online at GetRec.org

Recreation programming at Campbell and Petersen Barn Community Center provides numerous benefits. Participating in activities helps with physical, mental and emotional health, and is just one of many reasons why Eugene Rec prides itself on its thriving community.

"We're the neighborhood bar where everybody knows your name," senior programmer and Campbell site manager Diane Sconce says. "What I feel good about is having people come into the center because they feel they belong here."

Nothing lights up the room like the smile of someone who just won a game of bingo. But Campbell Community Center is more than that. Take, for instance, a recent trip a group of seniors made to Portland to go indoor skydiving. That trip showcases the breadth of experience one can have participating in a Eugene Rec activity.
A Campbell Center kayaking guide glides on Fern Ridge Reservoir during a trip last spring

Fuselier, 70, lives at a local senior living facility. She and her friend Dee are regulars at Campbell. So much so they call themselves the presidents of the Campbell Fan Club. For Fuselier, who is a big proponent of Campbell's Better Bones and Balance class, finding a community of like-minded people was essential after she retired more than eight years ago.

"We're all searching for the same thing," she says. "New experiences in our senior years. ... (At Campbell) I never thought I would have this many experiences as a senior.

"There are just not enough hours in the day to do all the things."
Bike Riding for Fun and Fitness

That's what Campbell programmer Tom Powers likes to hear. Since he transitioned to Campbell in 2009 he's sought out diverse programs to constantly surprise and delight the regular patrons and entice new people through the doors. Just this fall he finally succeeded in making a trip to an indoor skydiving building in Tigard. The excitement on the bus as it traveled up Interstate 5 was palpable. And the smiles after everyone had taken their turn in the wind tunnel were priceless.

Powers says trips like that are important for a variety of reasons.

"Yeah, they went and had fun," he says. "But when you think about the opportunities for the growth and making social connections through storytelling, it's great. Half those people called their kids or grandkids and asked, 'Guess what I did today?'

"Just the opportunities for someone to say, 'I did something with my life this month,' I think that's huge."

Sconce says the enthusiasm for the trips is clear. Whether it's a trip to Mount June for a day hike to see the fall foliage or a trip to the beach for some window shopping and eating, people are always eager.

"People are showing up 30 to 45 minutes ahead of time," she says. "You realize that's the high point of their day or week."

Campbell Community Center woodshop

Powers and Sconce have similar views on what it takes to provide the best services to Eugene's senior population. Through building a strong, healthy community they believe they can prolong people's lives. They want to keep people physically active, socially active and intellectually connected.

"In order to have a healthy community, you have to have healthy community members who have healthy connections with each other," Powers says.

Powers looks at that model and can use it as a rubric for Campbell Community Center.

"I love my job. I think we do great things here. It's a happy place."

That atmosphere is something the City of Eugene has cultivated over 55 years. When the property where Campbell Community Center now resides was purchased through the efforts of Celeste Campbell’s estate and private donors, the deed came with one caveat: the building had to be used for senior activities. It was renovated and opened in 1962, making it the second senior center on the West Coast.

"We have people who have been coming for more than 40 years," Power says. "And this place has been part of their life since then."

Patio and garden at Campbell Community Center

The belief in the healing powers of community and recreation are core to what Eugene Rec is about. A supportive network of friends and family is vital to continued good health into later years. Studies show people who have satisfying relationships are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer. It's the same for physical activity, which can ward off chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and obesity, or providing activities that keep the mind sharp. It’s why Fuselier has dabbled in just about every class offered through Campbell Center in the last six years and why she loves the community of the Better Bones and Balance class she attends with Dee on Mondays.

"We will get 80 year olds in here who say they're not old like those other people," Sconce says with a laugh. "Age is nothing but a state of mind."

Fuselier calls Campbell one of the greatest gifts in our community. The workers, she says, are what provide Campbell with life.

"They truly care," she says. "They have the express elevator to heaven. They're so patient and put up with the same questions day after day."

Fall foliage Mount June hike in October.

Sconce, who says she thrives in the chaos, loves the hectic pace that can be a Wednesday at the end of the month when lunch is accompanied by birthday cake and bingo after. Out in the lobby there can be up to 15 people just lounging around or inquiring at the front desk about a program or class. The staff can seem like calm centers in the swirling storm, always smiling.

"Family and community, to me those are almost the same words. You become invested when you feel you're a part of something."
A woman smiles while talking with her friend at the annual Campbell Community Center Ice Cream social in August.

Powers, always a quirky personality roaming the halls, says he likes that on Thursdays there's a band that plays Americana music on the other side of the wall next to his desk. He loves that he can count on donuts at certain times of the month and lunch on Wednesdays are delicious. He loves that he can he look forward to seeing certain groups when they come in because they're really positive.

"This is a really positive thing in my life that I have a reason to get up in the morning and come here," he says. "I really do like the relationships that I have here.

"I really like the people I work with."

Photos and video by Ben Schorzman

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