A second home for Appleton seniors

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - The City of Appleton pledges $100,000 in grants to a senior center that is growing in popularity.

That money, and a private matching donation of $200,000, will soon transform the Thompson Center on Lourdes.

It was just two years ago the senior center in downtown Appleton abruptly closed.

"There were so many folks that used that, that all of a sudden had a lot of trauma in their lives, and it was evident by people crying in the hallways and just a lot of angst," recalls Ray Zuelke, Thompson Center on Lourdes Board President.

That's when St. Bernadette Parish, with a vacant school building, stepped in.

"We saw this as an excellent opportunity to have an outreach to the community and to provide for a demographic group that otherwise, where would they go," says Father Don Zuleger.

With the help of Father Don, a group of seniors established the Thompson Center on Lourdes, and the center is thriving.

More than 300 seniors each week stop by for a game of pickle ball, cards, a number of other programs and fellowship.

"We haven't missed a beat. Nobody missed a card game, nobody missed a wood carving or a dance, and our participation has been growing. People love it here," says Zuelke.

Thanks to donations announced today from the city and a private donor totaling $300,000, the Thompson Center on Lourdes will soon have a new heating and air conditioning system, be up to code for fire and safety, and have an operating budget to create outdoor activity space on four acres.

Those who work at the center say it plays a vital role in the community.

"As people get older they tend to isolate themselves which can lead to depression and that ultimately leads to physical issues as well, so getting out, having a gathering place, a place to meet people and socialize is huge," says Jenny Anger, Thompson Center on Lourdes Operations Coordinator.

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