By Stefanie Donahue
A hodgepodge of photos and sparkling decorations sit at the front of the Blaine Senior Center cafeteria. The artful presentation was created to celebrate the impending July retirement of the center’s director, Dana Hanks.
“It has been very satisfying to see how supportive Blaine is of the senior center,” Hanks said. Commenting on her eight years as director, she put it simply: “It has been so easy.”
The Blaine Senior Center is a popular hub for the Blaine community, she explained. Each morning, she welcomes a line of visitors looking for a warm cup of coffee or some time in the book-lined reading space.
Prior to working at the center, she was an arts coordinator with Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department. Her background and academic interest in arts and recreation also led her to open an arts cooperative in Bellingham. Her experience, both in the professional and personal world, made her shift to senior services feel natural, she said.
Looking back, she’s proud of what the team at the senior center has accomplished over the years. Aside from a major renovation about 20 years ago, the center has undergone a series of significant upgrades, including the addition of a pavilion, which was completed in February.
Hanks was on the project’s planning committee and strongly advocated for the construction of the space through its completion. Working alongside the Boys & Girls Club and with the support from many community sponsors, the site is now home to a sleek new multipurpose space for all ages.
Not only has the building increased in size, but the community has also grown significantly over the years.
Administrative assistant Nancy Vogee estimates that the center is now host to approximately 100 volunteers and nearly 700 members. Each day, the center attracts about 100 visitors, she said.
Vogee started working with Hanks in 2011 and the two have become close friends. Her eyes watered as she started to talk about Hanks leaving the team.
The pair grinned as they recounted their experience performing the chicken dance for onlookers at a retirement party one year. The photo of the glitzy performance sits proudly in the center’s cafeteria.
Hanks left her own mark at the Blaine Senior Center. She fondly recalls the events she introduced to the community, including her high tea fundraising event – the black tie affair pampered nearly 130 guests with tea, waiters, petite sandwiches and music.
“I hope they find someone to fill her shoes because they’re awfully hard to fill,” Vogee said.
Like a stage production, she said, a lot goes on behind the scenes.
Looking ahead, Hanks is excited to spend more time in the outdoors with her two dogs. She also plans to work in her garden and stained glass studio. She’ll be sure to make frequent trips back to the center – especially for the Zumba classes, she said.
The senior center is just like a family, she explained.
“I live with these people,” she said with a smile. “They’re in my heart.”
The Blaine Senior Center is hosting a retirement celebration for Hanks on Friday, July 29. The event kicks off at 11:30 a.m. with a lunch and an open house with refreshments will follow at 12:30 until 4 p.m.
To learn more about the Blaine Senior Center, please visit blaineseniorcenter.com.