PEPPERELL -- Volunteers, politicians and members of the community gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pepperell Senior Center building at 37 Nashua Road.
Senior Center Director Marcia Zaniboni said that the anniversary was a cause to celebrate all the work the Council on Aging has done, and how that has grown since the center was built.
"We're really excited just because it's nice for us to remember how far we've come. It took us so long to get our own building. It's something to celebrate," she said.
Zaniboni said the fast-growing senior population in Pepperell makes the senior center critically important.
"When we take care of our seniors, we're taking care of our community, because they're such a big part of our community," Zaniboni said.
Cathy Forrest, chair of the Council on Aging board, said the number of people who came to the anniversary exemplified the effect the center has had.
"I'm so proud of this place. Since we've been here it's increased tenfold in terms of attendance, programs and hours of operation," Forrest said.
Merle Green, who served as chair of the building committee when the center was being built, ran the ceremony and introduced speakers, including state Rep. Sheila Harrington and state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who honored the anniversary on behalf of the state legislature.
Diane Homoleski spoke on behalf of the Pepperell seniors, talking about all the ways in which the center has helped her. "I feel like family here. This place has become my second home," Homoleski said.
Keynote speaker Emmett Schmarsow, program manager for COAs and senior centers statewide, said Pepperell has one of the highest ratios of senior center volunteers-to-town population in the state.
"You are providing what is, to me, a home away from home," he said. "The population is growing and what you're doing is providing for people's future."
Other local representatives, including Selectmen Stephen Themelis and Michael Green, came to join in the celebrations.
"We're excited that we have a viable and hospitable place for the seniors in our community, and we wish the director, the Council on Aging and the members of the Senior Center success for 10 more years," said Board of Selectmen Chairman Stephen Themelis.
Green, too, wished the senior center another successful decade, and stressed the value of the center to the community as a whole. "It shows how we value the people who have volunteered for us in the past, and the people who raised us," Green said.
Elaine Krol said she comes to the center for lunch about once a week, and is part of an exercise group that walks the Nashua River Rail Trail twice a week.
Marge Spence, who lived in Pepperell for much of her life, now travels to the senior center from her home in Newburyport every Wednesday to reconnect with old friends.
"This place was a big part of my husband's family. As he became more ill, the group here was amazing. There were lots of friendships here for both of us, and there still are," she said.