When Marifrank DaHarb started her job at Senior Circle, an outreach of Eastern New Mexico Medical Center for individuals age 50 or older, it was only a part-time gig.
Then she went to her bosses to set them straight.
“I told them if you want this to grow, it is going to be more than that,” said DaHarb, whose job title is executive director.
Now, 19 years later, the membership at Senior Circle has grown from around 120 to a very respectable 5,000.
Despite that large membership, Senior Circle is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in Roswell.
The center offers everything from exercise classes, to line and ballroom dancing, to free DVDs and books to check out, to pool and table games, to sing-a-longs with a real piano player, to computers with internet access — along with being just a friendly place to chat.
Another free program is the Health Sense talks provided by doctors from ENMMC.
The membership card entitles folks to discounts with businesses all over town. There was an annual membership fee, but that ended with the phaseout of the national Senior Circle Association on Dec. 31. Senior Circle has now transitioned to a free, local program.
“I don’t know why anybody would not want to be a member,” she said.
DaHarb said most of the programs got started by someone coming up to her and saying they’d like to teach a class or activity.
“We are mostly volunteers,” she said.
When Senior Circle first opened, it was located in a house near ENMMC. It is presently located in the Wilshire Center next to the dialysis center.
DaHarb was born in Houston and moved to Roswell when she was 10. At age 20, she moved to Chicago and spent 23 years at AT&T, working primarily in public relations but also human resources. Then her worksite got downsized and she was given the opportunity to relocate to New Jersey.
DaHarb said she turned it down and moved back to Roswell, where she opened a needlework store. She said she didn’t like doing that very much, so she went to work for the Roswell Daily Record. She worked at the RDR for six years, starting out as an ad builder, then Vistas editor and finally managing editor.
So how does she like Roswell compared to the Windy City?
“Roswell lacks traffic compared to Chicago,” she said. “And I got tired of shoveling snow.”
Asked what she likes most about her job, DaHarb said it’s the people.
“I kind of think of it as a ministry,” she said. “We kind of think of them as just retirees, but they all have had such interesting careers.”
In her free time, DaHarb said she has her hands full with her three dogs and six house cats. And you can’t forget her cockatoo.
Asked why she thinks seniors should join Senior Circle, DaHarb replied, “I think one of the most important aspects (of Senior Circle) is socialization. Too many seniors are hermits, and that’s not healthy.”
Senior Circle is located in the Wilshire Center at 2801 N. Main St. For more information, call 575-623-2311.
Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or firstname.lastname@example.org.