EDWARDSVILLE — Mary Ann Pointon summed up Monday’s reopening of the Edwardsville senior center the best.
“This is a great place and you all are a great bunch of people,” Pointon shouted as she entered the large meeting room and gathered hugs and kisses from the welcoming crowd decked out Christmas sweaters and elf hats.
Pointon, 78, of Edwardsville, said she couldn’t wait to get back to Russell Street building the members call home.
The center closed Nov. 8 when it was determined it would take about $30,000 to repair the building’s heating and air conditioning systems and to make necessary electrical repairs.
But a “Secret Santa” called member Charlie Reisser and told him the story of the center closing touched his heart and that he would see that the repairs were made.
The center’s anonymous donor, who still wants to remain anonymous, contacted the newspaper Monday and noted others also were involved in getting the center back in operation.
So Monday was a day of celebrating with cake, conversation and Christmas carols. Poinsettias adorned the tables.
“The family is back together again,” Reisser, 68, said. “I hung up the mistletoe, but I’m sure everybody will be hugging and kissing today.”
Sherlene Long has been the center’s director for three years. She and Rose Bojonny were at the center for the past week getting it ready for the grand re-opening.
“Everybody is so happy,” Long said. “We never gave up. We never stopped praying. And then from heaven, our guardian angel came to us.”
Bojonny was manning her post in the kitchen, eagerly waiting to start serving the people she has gotten to know and care for every Monday through Friday.
“I’m back, the center is back and we’re staying back,” she said. “It’s so good to see all those familiar faces walking through the door and they’re all smiling from ear to ear.”
Mary Sisky, who celebrated her 90th birthday at the center in October, wore a Santa hat as she returned to her role as “Mother of the Center.” Sisky, of Pringle, sang “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here” on the day the center closed. She sang it again Monday with a choir of fellow members.
“This is wonderful,” she said. “It’s so nice to be back with all my friends.”
Family of seniors
Pointon, like all of the members in attendance, used words like “family” and “home” when talking about the center.
“You tell them your problems and they tell you theirs,” she said. “There’s no place like the Edwardsville center. It’s small, homey and we all work together and help one another.”
Pointon revealed she was in the hospital recently and when she heard about the center reopening, she told her doctor she had to be out by Monday.
“There’s no way I was going to miss this,” she said.
The place was familiar — paneled walls were adorned with Christmas decorations of candy canes, wreaths, and snowflakes. Stocking were hung on chalkboards and the shuffleboard table featured several competitors.
“Welcome home for Christmas,” said Trula Hollywood, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging. “The last time we were all here, it wasn’t a happy time. But today we are extremely happy thanks to a very special Secret Santa who assured that we will be warm in the winter and cool in the summer.”
Long said she hopes the efforts of the anonymous donor will guarantee that the center, which opened in 1973, remains open for many years to come.
“Our Secret Santa wishes to remain nameless, but we will not let him go thankless,” Long said.
As Reisser looked around, basking in the warmth of so many friends, he said, “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this many happy faces.”