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Breen Center serves more than just seniors

The Breen Community Center at 244 Parkway St., in Kingsford, has been serving the Kingsford area for more than 40 years. Here, thrift store coordinator and council member Donna Peterson, right, and council member and volunteer Marcia DeYounghe, set up donations in the Breen Center Thrift Store. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Terri Castelaz)

KINGSFORD — The Breen Center in Kingsford isn’t just for seniors — it’s for the community.

For more than 40 years, the center at 244 Parkway St. has been a gathering place for residents to socialize, dine and enjoy activities, even shop.

The Breen Center Council owns the building, with the kitchen operated under the Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency meal program.

The community center has recently opened its doors after being closed for more than a year due to the pandemic restrictions.

“We are now allowed to have 24 people in the dining room,” said cook Laurie Helberg, a DICSA employee. “Our regulars were thrilled we are back to congregate meals.”

Meals are served from noon to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Take-outs are still available during the same hours.

“We have been take-out only since the month of July,” Helberg said. “It’s nice to see everyone enjoying themselves again.”

Helberg said she plans the monthly menus, which are all approved by DICSA for nutritional requirements.

“You get a complete meal,” said Marcia DeYounghe, council member and volunteer.

They serve an average of 30 dinners a day, which includes take-outs.

Before the shutdown last March, the center also offered two evening meals a month.

“Eventually we plan to get back to them again once the restrictions are lifted,” Helberg said. “These were popular and well attended.”

Helberg requested that meal orders be called in a day in advance, if possible. Menus for the month are posted and available to guests.

DeYounghe stressed these meals are not just for seniors. “Anyone is welcome to come and have dinner,” she said.

Donations are encouraged at $4 per meal for those 60 and older and $5 for those younger than 60 to help support the program.

Helberg has been at the Breen Center for about 33 years and said she has got to recognize many of the faces who stop in.

“That is the best part of this ‘job,'” she said.

Before the pandemic, the Breen Center opened at 8:30 a.m., with the coffee pot going for anyone to come in for conversation or a game of cards.

“Sometimes we even had goodies waiting, too,” said Donna Peterson, thrift store coordinator. Peterson has volunteered at the center for more than 40 years, taking on many different roles during this time.

The Breen Center Council hopes to get back to full capacity soon.

“Eventually we want to open up for activities,” Peterson said. “The council is looking to host bingo again and stay open for card playing.”

At one time, bingo would draw 40 to 50 people, Peterson said.

“We also want to have a craft day,” DeYounghe added.

Since they still are limited to the number of guests, the council is still discussing a schedule for activities.

In the past, they also set aside a day for checking blood pressure and blood-sugar testing.

Helping to generate funds for the building’s daily operation is the Community Thrift Store, in the upper level. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

After shutdown in March, the store was able to open with limited times in June and just returned to full hours in December.

“Last year was kind of quiet in the store,” DeYounghe said. “Donations were also down.”

The Thrift Store accepts gently used items, such as clean clothing, jewelry and small household items, all which are sold at a reasonable price.

“Because we have a small space, we cannot take in furniture or any large items,” Peterson said.

Donations recently began rising again after a council member posted on Facebook. “This has helped business pick up,” Peterson said.

Items for donation can be brought to the center during regular store hours.

Another large fundraiser for the center is the monthly pasty sales on the third Saturday of the month, with a maximum of 500 orders taken. The all-beef pasties, with or without rutabaga, cost $5 each. Sales take place through May. The public is urged to call as soon as possible, as they sell out fast, Peterson said.

For more information on the center and/or thrift store, or to place meal orders, call 906-774-5110.

The center recently received a mini-grant from the Dickinson Area Community Foundation toward buying a garbage disposal, Helberg said. They have no other plans to upgrade for now, as they try to make changes as needed, Peterson said.

The Breen Center group takes pride in having a strong volunteer program. They welcome any new volunteers who would like to be part of the program.

To thank all who gives their time, they honor them annually with a volunteer appreciation dinner. Due to the pandemic last year, the event had to be canceled. The council hopes to host it again in October.

In addition to Peterson and DeYounghe, other council members include Sue Bjorkman, Marlene Carter, Agatha Cavaiani and Marsha Swanson.

The council encourages the public to visit the center.

“There’s no age requirement — everyone is welcome,” Peterson said.

Terri Castelaz can be reached at tcastelaz@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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