Ready, set, WALK! Ready to take an indoor spin around the civic center are (from left) Mary Anna Hanson, Shirley Meyers, Betty Covart, Lupe Gutierrez, Pat Abshire, Judy Sasso and Mikki Brewer. Photos by Tom Broad

Linda Slade’s husband, George, had retired recently and she didn’t want him sitting at home watching “Family Feud” all day.

Jo Porter was retired and had time on her hands. With a daughter-in-law from Panama, she thought it would be a good time to learn Spanish.

Kathy Hopper is retired, too, and has a crafts business that keeps her busy. She wanted some “fun time” since she loves to play cards and other games.

The solution was easy — join the City of Humble’s Senior Program.

Assuming there are no delays, in 18 to 24 months, Jo, Kathy Linda, George and all the other participants of the Senior Program will move into a new Humble Senior Center.

“We budgeted $2 million for what we expect to be a one-story, 10,000-square-foot structure with plenty of parking and a functional outdoor space. It will be designed with the seniors’ input to meet their needs. It will become their new home,” said Humble Mayor Norman Funderburk.

In his 2021 campaign for mayor, Candidate Funderburk said his “ … desire and intention (is) to see the program improve, become more energized and thereby grow and attract more participation from area residents.”

“I believe that the group will be happiest once they have space dedicated to them for their activities,” Funderburk emailed The Tribune during the campaign.

While there was discussion among the candidates to construct an addition to the civic center, or move the program to a former elementary school, Funderburk and the council ultimately voted to build a new facility.

“Our thought from the beginning has been, why move the seniors from one rundown building to another old building,” City Manager Stuebe wrote The Tribune.

“In terms of ‘bang for the buck,’ a new facility was the way to go.”

Having a purposely built facility that is new without any underlying issues was an easy decision compared to the alternatives, Stuebe wrote.

Humble’s seniors may step into their new center in 18 to 24 months although the city is still in the preliminary planning stage.

“We are lining up our preferred architectural firm,” Stuebe said. “A general contractor will not be selected until the building is designed and bid out.”

Assuming no delays, Stuebe expects design and engineering to take approximately six months, bidding the project out by mid to late summer, selecting a contractor by early fall.

“With a notice to proceed and construction beginning before the end of the year (2022), I’d expect construction time somewhere in the nine-month range which puts us mid- to late-summer 2023 opening,” Stuebe wrote.

The senior center will be located just south of the previous one on South Houston Avenue where Fire Station No.2 will be built and north of the Octavia Fields Library.

“In a sense, we are building a campus like setting at the corner of South Houston Avenue and Will Clayton Parkway to house the arena, civic center, library, the new parks and recreation headquarters, Fire Station 2 and the new Senior Activity Center,” said Stuebe.

The new campus could serve as a catalyst for more growth and, from an aesthetic standpoint, drive future development in the undeveloped land around the civic center/arena/senior center/fire station/library complex.

“As a government facility, it is hard to say what the economic impact will be,” Stuebe said. “That is not necessarily what our senior program is about. This is more about adding to the quality of life and building a sense of community. Does that have spinoff benefits? Absolutely. This council and past councils have positioned Humble to be a place people want to retire. Our senior center fits into that strategic vision.”

Mari Guevara understands the importance of quality of life for Humble seniors.

“I want to get to know our seniors,” said Guevara, who is beginning her sixth year as director and chief cheerleader for the Humble Senior Center program. “That is why I insist that someone signing up actually come in person. I want to meet them. Hear their stories. Get to know them and help them figure out what we have here that would be best for them.”

Guevara recalled one new participant who kept to herself.

“I tried to get to know her. One day she asked if I spoke Spanish,” she recalled. “Once we began talking, I discovered she was a psychologist. I learned so much about her that I wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t opened up.”

Guevara recalls another who could barely walk and got to the center using two canes.

“A year later, she is walking without the canes and she’s taking our kickboxing class,” Guevara said.

Jo Porter, who has lived around the world, took Spanish classes through Humble’s Senior Program and she gives her instructor “ … an A-plus. I wish I would have had him in high school. I would have been a much better student,” Porter confessed.

Kathy Hopper originally took her mom to Humble’s Senior Center to get a little exercise and mingle with other seniors. When Hopper retired, “ … mom enjoyed it so much, I decided to go, too. When you retire, you don’t have your working friends anymore. I didn’t want to sit at home alone, so I joined the Senior Program,” she said.

Hopper can be found at the Senior Center on Thursday “fun and games” day, when she practices Mexican Train, a dominoes game she learned from the nuns in college.

As for Linda Slade, she was taking a lady with dementia to bingo and luncheons and saw how helpful it was. Slade continued to go. When her husband, George, retired, Linda took him with her.

“I am so glad she did,” George said. “I love the camaraderie. I see people my own age and, even though we are a pretty diverse group, we really have the same concerns and interests.”

He met veterans, just like him, even World War II vets who are amazing.

Kathy Hopper is teaching others how to play dominoes and wants to grow the bunco game.

George and Linda Slade love the walking group but are anxious to get back into their own building with their own library and puzzle room.

Jo Porter especially enjoyed the time Mari Guevara took the group to Washington-on-the-Brazos. She is anxious to see what new programs and projects will be available in the new building.

And that is precisely the plan Mayor Funderburk has for the new building.

“My hope and expectation is that the new building will serve as a catalyst for growth,” he said. “Exciting times are definitely in store. Let us watch our seniors thrive and grow.”

Join or learn more about the Humble Senior Program, humblecc.com/senior-program/, 281-446-4140. Just remember, Guevara wants seniors to come by when they sign up so she can meet them.

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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