Anyone over the age of 55 looking for fun and activities doesn’t have far to look. Portage Township’s Bonner Center offers local seniors the opportunity to enjoy and participate in dozens of activities and events.
For some, thanks to the Bonner Center Senior Scholarship, access to all the Bonner Center even comes at no cost.
Robin Wilkening, Director of the Bonner Center, describes the Bonner Center as a Boys and Girls Club for grown-ups.
“We have activities that cater to seniors,” Wilkening said. “We have card and game clubs–bunco and bingo for example. We have a crocheting and knitting club. There are also arts and crafts and drawing classes. We have a fitness class that is hosted by the YMCA. The Bonner Center has Zumba and line dancing classes. We even have a singing group and a dance group.”
Not all activities at the Bonner Center are indoors.
“One thing we are really proud of is the walking trail,” Wilkening said.
Along the walking trail members can explore the strength training equipment and be together without any worry about COVID-19.
“It’s outside so people don't have to worry about being in a room with somebody and wondering if they’re not feeling well” Wilkening said. “It’s been a big blessing to our center.”
Members pay a small fee to join the Bonner Center.
“Portage Township residents pay $20 a year to join,” Wilkening said. “Anyone outside of Portage township pays $40 per year.”
Hoping to ensure access for all, the Bonner Center offers scholarship funds to offset membership fees for qualifying members.
“The scholarship program provides money to help seniors if they're financially unable to do so,” Wilkening said. “There's a different criteria that we go about to find out if that person is eligible.”
Although located in Portage, Wilkening encourages seniors within driving distance to join in on the action.
“We have members from Michigan City, Merrillville, Hobart, Valparaiso, South Haven–all over,” Wilkening said.
Some exciting upcoming events at the Bonner Center include twice-weekly Bingo nights, a dance for members, and group trips (including some out-of-state).
“The Snowball dance will be January 21, 2023,” Wilkening said. “We will have non-alcoholic drinks and of course finger foods. There will also be a DJ. It will be a really exciting time.”
The Bonner Center hosts Bingo nights every Friday and Sunday. These are open to the public.
Always looking for ways to support its members all year, the Bonner Center recently started a Secret Santa program.
“A lot of our seniors are on a fixed income,” Wilkening said. “We also have seniors that don't have any family in the area. They don't get a lot of things at Christmas. So last year, we started the Senior Secret Santa. We asked a church to help us. They gave gift cards to give out anonymously for groceries, gas, and places where the seniors could buy themselves something.”
Hoping to increase the program this year, Wilkening and the team at the Bonner Center are looking for local businesses and organizations to donate to the Senior Secret Santa program as well as the Senior Scholarship fund.
Anyone interested in donating to the Senior Scholarship or Secret Santa program at the Bonner Center should contact Robin Wilkening at (219) 762-1522.