Chinook Senior Center's volunteers appreciated and celebrated


October 25, 2023

National Volunteer Week is traditionally celebrated the third week in April. It’s a week when the country’s 60 million volunteers who volunteer 4.18 billion hours of service are officially recognized. Senior Center Director Ginger Hansen, who joined the Center only a few months ago, decided to celebrate the Center’s volunteers a bit early this year. She planned and held a special event for the Center’s volunteers in early October.

Hansen explained, “Volunteers assure the Center is able to continue to reach out to the community.” She put together a special evening and dinner for the Center’s 20 plus volunteers who function in a variety of capacities from serving on the governing board to helping with meals and activities for guests.

How volunteers serve at the Chinook Senior Center

In a recent interview with Director Hansen, she outlined some of the essential roles that volunteers fill to assure the varied programs at the Center can operate. A major function of the Center is to provide nutritious noon meals five days per week to seniors and guests. Readers may not be aware that the funding for the Center is driven by the number of people who are served by the Center—more clients being served meals or in other ways equals increased funding.

For the meals at the Center volunteers make sure coffee is brewed, tables are set, guests are helped as needed and clean-up is completed after each meal. Other volunteers deliver meals to folks who cannot come to the Center. The number of delivered meals at times can be more than 30, depending on weather and other factors. There’s a ‘’volunteer band” that plays during lunch each Friday and a volunteer who coordinates the monthly “Friday birthday celebration”—when everyone with a birthday in the month can enjoy a birthday party with cake and decorations. Volunteers help make the dining events happen.

But there’s a lot more going on than the noonday and delivered meals at the Center. Volunteers are involved in that programming as well. Volunteers set up special equipment (bingo), make sure jigsaw puzzles are available, set up the cornhole boards and accommodate card players. Volunteers also conduct special, one-time presentations. A most interesting one, last summer, was a Power Point presentation about Germany presented by an eight-year-old German boy visiting grandparents here in the U.S. Other volunteers lead weekly health related exercise programs or do one-time presentations on health topics. And special craft-making programs give participants hands-on experience making a variety of useful and decorative items.

A recent new program, titled “visiting chefs,” provides an opportunity for volunteer chefs to prepare a noon meal at the Center. Some of these meals involve special dishes (ethnic dishes) and others are “Montana-style” meals that are specialties of the cook(s). Director Hansen, herself well known for her cooking skills, has also added some “themed meals” based on a holiday or some event known by most diners.

Volunteers are also helping defray rising food costs through donations. Anyone recently grocery shopping or dining out knows the price of food has been steadily rising. Director Hansen has asked local ranchers if they would donate beef to the Center. The response from producers has been good, she says, and some individuals not directly connected to ag businesses have also donated meat to the Center. Volunteerism can take many forms.

If you would like to volunteer at the Chinook Senior Center…

Director Hansen said of the current volunteers, “I’m grateful for the ones we have but the Center can always use more.” If someone is interested in volunteering, and there are many roles to fill, call Ginger Hansen at 357-2648. Or, to learn what goes on at the Center and see how you might help, stop by or call for a meal reservation and get a close-up view of what is going on at the Chinook “Social” Senior Center.


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