Jackie Samson, Rita Nadeau and Sharon Colburn are among several members of the knitting group at The Center in Kennebunk. Like many organizations, those at The Center found themselves making some changes during the height of the pandemic, but remained positive and have been able to get back into full swing. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK – What happens to a gathering place for folks 50 and older when a worldwide pandemic means changing the way events happen?

You turn the negative into a positive. You take a regular luncheon that had been an in-person event and make it curbside – and it turns out to be a hit.

You put yoga classes and tai chi classes online.

And you carry on on a positive way.

When the pandemic closed just about everything back in March 2020, it meant changes at The Center, too, with some programs shifted online and some on hold.

But it isn’t that way, anymore.

A few short months later, the venue was once again able to provide programs and classes and events, with precautions.

Folks who work there and those who drop by to knit or take in a lecture, or a class are glad of it.

“When I first came here, I didn’t know anyone. Jackie (Samson) introduced me,” said Linda Hopper, knitting with the other members on a recent Friday. “And I love to read, and the library is well-stocked.”

Executive Director Kate Jollie said within two weeks of the March 2020 closure, virtual programs were up and running. Then, a few months later, in June, The Center was able to offer some in-person events, with masks and other protocols.

These days, The Center is open with a full schedule, but some programs remain online, too, by choice.

“We found people actually like having it virtual,” said Jollie. “It helps with inclement weather.” And, she said, people who winter elsewhere can join in from whatever their location.

It is one of the positives about The Center – which also annually offers area residents a chance to nominate people from around the area as Models of Positive Living – people who make a difference in the lives of others through kind gestures, volunteerism and a can-do attitude.

This year, there were several nominations. From them, John “Rocky” Furman Jr and Elaine Talevi, both of Wells, were chosen.

The Center recently named John “Rocky” Furman as a 2021 Model for Positive Living winner. He is shown with executive director Kate Jollie and The Center founder Ann Spaulding. Courtesy Photo/The Center

Furman, according to information provided to The Center, has been “running around Drake’s Island since 1953.”

Here’s what people have said about Furman, according to The Center: “He has been an amazing neighbor to many in Wells and in the surrounding communities. He was treasurer for Save our Shores Maine for over 20 years, he was part of both the Wells Rotary, in charge of Wells Harborfest for many years and has been active with Laudholm Farm for decades.

“He plows people out; he shovels their walks. He is always there for everyone. He delivers fresh corn, brings fresh berries, leaves kind notes, calls, texts and checks on others always. If you need a ride, something fixed, or help in any way that he can assist he is there for you. No one truly knows how much he does for others every day because he would never tell you. He always has a cheerful smile and a can-do attitude.”

Dave and Elaine Talevi operated Sea-Vu Campground until his sudden death in 2010. Elaine carried on,  learning parts of the business her husband had handled in the past in addition to her own role in the campground. At the same time, she established the David F. Talevi Foundation in his name.

“The foundation annually raises the money to fund five or six $1,000 grants for local students as well as camper kids and make Silver Level gifts to the Maine Heart Association, The American Cancer Society as well as Honor Flight, Center for Grieving Children and Portland’s Womens Free Clinic,” according to her nomination. “She is an inspiration to all. Here is a woman who has always strived to bring happiness and success to others.”

The Center executive director Kate Jollie, left, presents a 2021 Model of Positive Living Award to Elaine Talevi. Courtesy Photo/The Center

The two were recently honored by The Center.

Staff and attendees are looking to more positives ahead – and are working on some of them now.

The knitters, who meet on Fridays, make scarves and hats for the Elder Elves project –  gifts given to older folks who are alone on the  holidays. So far, they are up to 70 scarves.

Everyone is looking forward to the annual boxwood wreath sale on the first Saturday in December, which also marks the first weekend of Prelude, said Jollie.

The FISH program that provides rides to medical appointments for seniors is back in full swing, and Tender Loving Calls to folks interested in having someone check in on them continue on, as they did throughout the pandemic.

There is an array of events, from bridge to yoga, virtual tai chi, art workshops, conversational Spanish lessons, phone bingo, and more, including legal topics, the Grief Support Group, and more. Information and a schedule is at: https://seniorcenterkennebunk.org/

Samson, working on a scarf, said knitters enjoy what they’re doing – and though knitting is something that can be done at home, “it isn’t as much fun,” as the 10 a.m. to noon sessions each Friday at The Center. “We knit, chat, gossip, and then we go out to lunch,” she said.

“We make good friends,” said Hooper.

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