Kate Jollie was recently named executive director of The Center, an organization for those 50 and older, located in Kennebunk’s Lower Village. Photo by Tammy Wells

KENNEBUNK – On a drizzly Thursday morning there’s a yoga class going on inside The Center on Port Road.

In another room, folks are setting up for bridge.

Coming up on Dec. 7 is the annual Prelude Holiday Fair, where wreaths, boxwood trees, gift items, baked goods, and more are purchased by eager customers.

They just finished up the annual Kitchen Tour fundraiser.

This gathering place, simply called The Center, for more than 400 members, is an organization that aims to connect people 50 and older is busy – and is about to get busier.

Enter Kate Jollie, The Center’s new executive director. She’s focusing on building community connections, expanding programming, planning for an additional facility to compliment the existing center and making sure those 50 and older are living their lives with verve.

If her name sounds a bit familiar, it is because she was named interim director in July, and, she said, had anticipated a relatively short engagement of a few months while the search for a permanent director continued. She considered her interim gig as a consulting job.

As an interim, she “jumped right in” and started to work. As the months passed, Jollie said she became “hooked” on The Center as she saw the commitment by the employees and the board of trustees.

Then, the opportunity arose for Jollie to become the permanent director and so she signed on.

“I saw the desire to grow and started to feel it would be a really interesting and fulfilling opportunity,” she said.

Jollie, who moved here from Connecticut, is retired after 35 years in information technology. She’s volunteered in a number of capacities – on boards of various organizations, including efforts to stem the tide of breast cancer.

She pointed out as a retiree, she herself is smack in the middle of demographic that The Center serves.

“I feel strongly about working in situations where we’re helping people to improve their lives,” she said.”This phase of life is about learning, making friendships and maintaining connections to family and friends.”

As The Center moves forward, she sees gains for the organization, for the community and for some personal growth as well.

“I look at this as a way to challenge myself, grow and learn and have an impact on the community,” she said.

The Center is a hub of activity, offering tutoring for those looking to improve their computer skills, knitting and yoga. There are bridge clubs and cribbage clubs, a book group, author talks, art walks, special presentations on a range of topics and bocce on the beach at low tide. There is a grief support group that is open to the community- not just members; a conversational French group and “lunch and learn” events that include such topics as financial wellness or how to make the most of a doctor’s appointment. There are movies on Fridays. There are bridge lessons and watercolor lessons and seminars on which is the best Medicare plan and so on.

And there are volunteer opportunities as well. The Center operates the FISH (friends in service, helping) program, in which volunteer drivers provide rides to medical appointments for people in the Kennebunks and Arundel who have no other means to get there.

Center volunteers are also Elder Elves, providing wrapped holiday gifts for people who can use them, as referred by local social service agencies.

Other members make TLC (tender loving calls) to people in the community – a daily check in.

As well as programs and volunteer opportunities, The Center also looks to be a resource for members who may be retired but who still want to be in the work force. She pointed out that back in April, The Center hosted a job fair that saw 150 people turn out.

As 2020, and the 30th anniversary of the founding of The Center by Douglas and Ann Spaulding approaches, Jollie said she’ll be looking at plans for renovations to an existing building on Western Avenue for the expansion, diversifying programming and more.

The Center, said Jollie, “is really looking to help people re-imagine aging and provide opportunities for people to connect.”

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