Familiar face to take Kenai Senior Center reins

Regular visitors going to the Kenai Senior Center for lunch, games, Thursday evening bluegrass jam sessions, and other activities will be seeing a new face — though a familiar one — behind the director’s desk.

Rachel Craig is retiring after serving as Kenai Senior Center Director for 16 years. On Oct. 1 she’ll be replaced by Kathy Romain, who has worked at the Senior Center as an administrative assistant for about 20 years.

“Rachel and I have been a team together for 16 years,” Romain said. “So it’s always the seniors first, and emphasizing wonderful customer service and the needs of our senior population.”

Craig holds similar sentiments, saying Romain was her “right hand” during her leadership of the Senior Center.

When Romain takes over as director, Craig will retire. Her plans are to “maybe a be senior, and see how that goes,” she said. Aside from a short trip, Craig has nothing else definite for her retirement.

“I think we’re hoping to stay in the area,” she said. “Kenai’s a great place for seniors. It’s a small community and people care about each other. Great for people to age in place.”

Many seem to agree. Romain said the numbers of people at Kenai Senior Center activities are increasing rapidly.

“On average, on a monthly basis, we serve in one way or another about 500 — whether they’re eating here or coming to play cards, or coming for bluegrass on Thursday nights, or they’re home meal clients,” Romain said. “People who are coming through our doors and we are actively counting their participation in some form, or maybe we’re just giving them information or assistance.”

According to data the Senior Center has been collecting over the past year, about 75 percent of these are from the city of Kenai, and 25 percent from the surrounding area. The majority are in their 70s.

Romain said the most popular activities at the senior center are exercise, nutrition, and fitness programs.

“Just in the month of June we had upwards of a hundred separate seniors taking part in (nutritional) programs on a weekly basis,” Romain said. “And those numbers are growing. If you look back even a year ago, those numbers have almost doubled… I think it’s the old adage ‘if you build it, they will come.’ Some of the classes started slow, but they build up. What we’re seeing is a whole different demographic — a whole different group of seniors coming in from the community who had a stigma of what they thought the senior center was about: ‘seniors who live there just come down for lunch and play cards.’ But we’re seeing more and more that people are saying ‘hey, they may have something for me.’ It’s a real resource for Kenai, especially when seniors are the highest demographic moving into the state.”

Asked about plans for her directorship, Romain said she intends “to continue on with a lot of the things we already have in place.” In addition to the popular fitness programs, some activities the Senior Center has been recently hosting include a writing group, a Spanish class, and piano lessons taught by a pair of local high school students, Craig said.

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