top of page

History of Ephrata Senior Center

Help us complete the history of Ephrata Senior Center.  We are grateful to Jim Prichard for beginning this project.

 If you have corrections or additions to this history, please submit them to



The Friendly Club

The first meeting for the election of officers of the "Friendly Club" was in 1955 with chairman Charles Ward, vice chairman Herb Atkins and secretary/treasurer Ethel Buck. The club was noted as being the city's Official Sunshine Club. The meetings were held in the Lloyd Black Building on First Street. In June 1961, they left the Undercroft building and moved to the Senior Center in Blackie's building downtown, which is now the Waterhole Tavern.


March 6, 1967, the Washington Secretary of State approved the articles of Incorporation as a 501.3c non-profit organization. The center was established to initiate education, cultural, and recreational programs and services for the older adults of Ephrata. Visitations, the telephone reassurance plan, and transportation for groceries, doctor appointments and medicine were also emphasized.


Founding members were: Jake Weber, Mrs. Frank (Dorothy) Kriete, Mabel Thompson, George Hockstatter, Clem & LaVerne Pontsler, Gordon & Thelma Nicks, Vada Morse, Helen Allen, Walker & Irene Armstrong, Oscar & LaVerna Keuther, Ruth Rawlings, Bonnie Woods, Forest and Julia Rice.


Lyle Daverin, managing director of the center, was instrumental in getting the program started in Ephrata and in obtaining federal funds for its operation. He said that the cooperation from local businesses and groups has been excellent but the success of the center was mainly to the enthusiastic seniors that made up the organization.


Financing was provided from the Federal Government, originally, but help from United Givers, donations, memberships, fund raising activities such as "Gay Nineties" sufficed until the city of Ephrata came to the rescue with the equivalent of $5,000 per year. The program was to be operated by a Board of Trustees. Originally, 24 organizations each nominated an individual to serve on the Board giving a good cross-section of Ephrata.


Lyle Davern was the Director of the first Senior Center. It was decided that they needed to do some remodeling. To raise money they held a Gay Ninety Program at the Ephrata Recreation Center (ERC). Lyle Davern, Herb Atkins, Con Norrias, Ernie Nichals and others worked on the remodeling project.


The arts and crafts group, started in June, 1967, when the center first came into being got involved in making artificial flowers and art arrangements. It was led by Jan Veach. This group also made terrycloth slippers for the nursing home, finger puppets for the Maplewood special education students, ditty bags for the American Red Cross and it handled all the decorations and window displays for the center. In more recent years the Crafty Seniors have had an annual Bazaar in the month of December.


Another important project for the seniors was visiting shut-ins, a welcome and rewarding pastime. Anyone interested in local history, an afternoon spent with one of these clear-headed old timers can be an education in itself.

Moving Day

Things went rather smoothly until the Fall of 1975 when they were asked to leave their "Home" by Christmas time. A "new home" committee was appointed, (Nessen as chairmen, Mendenhal and Brader). Every empty building in town was visited, measured, owner located to see if he would rent for what the Seniors could pay. After two solid weeks of work they decided the available buildings, large enough for dancing and other activities were beyond our financial means and the ones we could afford were too small. This left the Ephrata Recreation Center (ERC) as the only suitable possibility.


They arranged for the Kiwanis Club with help from the National Guard to do the moving. The Friendly Club continued to meet and have a variety of interesting activities. They ranged from bird watching to bowling. There were regular meetings of the Arts and Crafts group, contract and duplicate bridge, a bowling league, a local chapter of TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) and Weight Watchers club was held weekly. Other activities included flower arranging, horseshoes, bowling, fishing, old-fashioned potluck dinners, community sings, sports boosters, visiting shut-ins and anything else that they could find that needed doing. An average of 300 people per week were involved in some way with the activities.


The studies and activity groups were the nucleus of the center. Its programs included retirement living classes which featured discussion topics, such as Medicare programs and retirement budgeting. Not that these weekly meetings were stuffy or dull. Some were more like an old fashioned hoe-down, including a delicious potluck luncheon, and live music provided by members, dancing, community singing and a lively game time during the afternoon hours, with everything from pinochle to Parcheesi.


At Christmas time bags of candy and gifts were taken to the old Ephrata Nursing Home. Then Head Start was started in Ephrata and the Friendly Club made mittens and caps for the children. In December, 1967 group had an all-day Christmas party at which Faye Mayer led Christmas carols & sang Silent Night in German.


When the Ephrata Senior Center moved from its first location on First Street NW when the building was sold, a search for a new location started. Initially the City of Ephrata provided a temporary location at their recreation center. Due to many activities scheduled at the ERC by other community groups, activities of the Senior Center were limited. A need for a permanent site was imperative.


In 1975, the Friendly Club moved along with the Senior Center to the ERC building. They continued to meet as the Friendly Club. Cecil Chase was Director of the Center at that time.

New Construction

In January 1977, Mabel Thompson was named Director of the Senior Center and the Friendly Club flourished as never before. Sometime in 1977 it became apparent that the Senior Center was growing and the ERC was no longer adequate. A group of Senior Center men got together and soon a meeting was called for the public. The purpose was to decide if the people could build a Senior Center for Ephrata.  Many ideas were considered for a permanent location. The best plan was for the Center to buy property and erect a building. Late in 1977, a steering committee was formed to oversee the project. Three committees were formed. They were the Finance, Publicity and Building Committee, with Walt Click as coordinator and expediter.

Mabel Thompson

Funds to start the building were obtained by the Finance committee through business and local citizen donations. Over $30,000 was raised. The Building committee determined the size (60 by 72 feet.), the type of constructing, and floor plan. A retired contractor, Ray Oelke, prepared the construction plans and supervised the work. A local businessman voluntarily pushed over the trees, dug the footings and put in the concrete forms??? Employees of Jerry Dobbins’ excavated the footing and place the concrete for the foundation??? {which one was it??}

Twenty-five senior volunteers ranging in age from 65 to 85 provided most of the labor. They worked almost daily for six or seven months to finish the building  for its spring opening date of May, 1978. In addition, over 100 Job Corpsmen working on the building were supervised by various officers trained in each craft. The Job Corps looked at the center as a training opportunity. They poured the concrete floor, erected the fireplace, installed the marblecrete exterior siding and assisted with carpentry work, using material provided by the Center. The white brick fireplace was thanks to the Ephrata Lions Club which donated the materials.


The new center included a kitchen, two restrooms, a director's office, a lounge, an arts and crafts room, a game room and a multipurpose room with a hardwood floor for dancing. The dance floor has dimmer lights and room for 305 people. Many of the citizens assisted with carpentry work, interior finishing and painting - all volunteer work. Local contractors installed the electrical, heating and plumbing systems.

To complete the building by May, 1978 a 15 year loan of $30,000 at a very reasonable interest rate was secured from Peoples Bank to help buy the materials. The building was estimated to cost $135,000, but actually cost only $68,000 to build. The savings came through the many persons who volunteered their skills and labor on the building's construction. For example, the carpeting was furnished by a local business. The kettles and dishes come from the Title VII Food and Friendship Program which would serve the senior meals at the center.

































Dedication Ceremony

The dedication of the building was May 20, 1978 at 3 PM. Bob Smock of Peoples Bank in Ephrata gave the dedication speech. Dick Canfield of Ephrata was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. Others participating in the dedication rites were Ephrata Mayor Les Parr, Walt Click, building Committee Chairman Al Colwell, Mrs. Mable Thompson, and Ephrata Senior Center Board of Trustees President Charles Brader. Other members of the Board were Walter Click, Doug Green, Floyd Craig, Elizabeth Click, Richard Klein, Jack Wright, Berta Hunt, Walker Armstrong, George Furman, Hazel Simmons, Margaret Lilleby, Cathy Busch, Erie Sola, Bob Monson, Red Mendenhall, and Howard Nessen.


The Rev. Richard Klein led the invocation and the Rev. John Davis led the benediction. R. L. Parrish was the soloist. He was accompanied by Bonnie Woods. City Councilman, Robert Smock, who participated in the planning and fund raising for the Center, said in a dedicatory speech, "Everybody that enjoys the benefits of the building will know that in 1978 there was a community that cared and there were citizens that cared." He went on the say that when the project was conceived, it was decided that the center was going to be built "with citizen's dollars, not with tax dollars." He pointed out that both the business community and the seniors met the fund raising goals set for them. He hoped that people would specify the Senior Center in memorials or wills to make up the remainder. The first had already come in from Selma Therriault.


Over 1000 people signed the guest book. Presentation of a US flag from the Veterans of Foreign Wars was given by Mrs. Curtis Elshire. The Flag Salute was in memory of Grace NcNair. In 1979, at the annual meeting president Margaret Lilleby, chaired the meeting. They elected five new board members to three year terms. They were Andy Baker, Stella Allen, Berta Hunt, Paul McMains and Henry Nowka. Bonnie Woods was named to a one-year term to replace Cathryn Busch who resigned earlier in the year.


A few of the achievements accomplished that year: The center purchased a beautiful commercial range for the kitchen and hired a janitor to do the janitor work that the manager, Mabel Thompson had been doing. They had had dime-a-dip dinners.


Future objectives of the Center at this time included improved transportation for members, more home visitations and continued support of the Ephrata community who has contributed so much to the success of the Center.




Mortgage Burning

November 21, 1982 the Center had a mortgage burning ceremony. The Master of Ceremonies was Dick Canfield, invocation by Charles Brader, remarks by president Jack Wright, recognition of builders by Walt Click, the Center's future by Mabel Thompson, music interlude by Bell Roller, keynote speaker was Robert Smock, Mortgage Burning was done by Mabel Thompson and Jack Wright, and R.L. Parrish pronounced the benediction.

25th Year Anniversary

In 1992, the Center celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary with 125 members attending. By this time, a lot of birthdays and wedding anniversaries were celebrated. An annual "thank you" luncheon was held for the many volunteers that helped at the Center. On many occasions, member Carl Johl entertained playing his electronic keyboard.

One of the annual fund raisers was having lunch available for folks who were involved or just attending the Sage and Sun Festival held each June. Another was the Pancake Supper after an election. Each Wednesday the Line Dancing Grannies practiced. For many years, Jean Bottcher volunteered many days to guide folks in accomplishing whatever they were doing. There have been rummage sales in the fall.

There have been several bands that have played at the Center. One was The Alley Cats in the 80s and another was the Sun Downers in the early 1990’s.

Many people have served the Ephrata Senior Center and we would like to acknowledge them all.  Please help us complete this list.

Past Presidents Ephrata Senior Center

1970 Veda Norton


1977 Charles Braden

1978 Charles Braden?

1979 Walt Click
1980 Margaret Lilleby
1982 Jack Wright
1983 Ruth Elkins
1984 Walker Armstrong
1985 Janette Collier or Elizabeth Click

1987 Berta Hunt Roberson
1988 Don Harrison

Year unknown Howard Nessen Bill Nicoles Bob Burzleff Rev Richard Klein Axel Strom Lona Hall

1989 Al Colwell

1990 Jeanette Collier

1992 Carolee Mullins

1993-94 Jeannette Collier

1995-96 Roger Palmer

1997-98 Veda Norton

1999 Ethel Fox

2000-05 Kenny Kriete

2006 Alice Warren

2009-10 Carol Hampton

2011-13 John Moody

2014 Raleigh Wyatt, Carol Stockdale

2015 -   Mike Donovan

Directors for The Ephrata Senior Center

1976-1991. Mabel Thompson

1991 Carolie Mullin

1992 -?? Kathryn Bachman
Janet Green ?

1995-2004  Alice Warren

Donna Lough

Sally Ann

Jo Davis

Tracey Fisher

Eleanor Compton

2012-    Sharon Hastings


Cooks for the Ephrata Senior Center

Janie Jones

1986  Jerry Hill, Francis Ireland

1989 Lee Schlumm (assisted by Alice Warren)

Patricia Monthque “Charlie” — 8 years

Dorothy Olive


2012 John Pitts

2012-13 Rhonda Kapalo

2014-15 Jan Bro

2015 -  Patty Donovan (assisted by Lynn Myer, Michelle Delano, Lonnie Jones, Erika Halstead, Katy Larson, Jessica Rodriguez

bottom of page