The Harvest House Community Center on Kenilworth Road turned the big 5-0 this year, and to hear people talk, it has never been better. The senior center, known for its large selection of activities, classes and events, has built an impressive following over its five decades.
“The overlaying spirit is that everyone is happy to have this place,” said Alan Kaufman at the center’s birthday celebration. “Everyone here is welcoming.”
Kaufman, an artist who regularly uses the center’s fully-equipped woodworking shop, says the center’s community is as important as its resources.
“I have all the tools I need here, but I already have most of these at home. I come here for the camaraderie,” he says. Kaufman adds that it’s not only seniors who use the facility, and that the Harvest House is open to any age group. “There are young people who come here too,” he says.
Center Director Lee Dansby says the Harvest House has as many as 300 regular visitors who participate in everything from weaving classes and line dancing to pool games and Tai Chi. Groups form to play card games or Scrabble on a regular basis and to catch up with one another. “There is a real sense of community that forms with all of these groups,” she says.
At 50, Harvest House has a long history in the city of Asheville. The building on Kenilworth Road was erected in 1925 as a retail space, and had several different uses before it was converted to a community center by the Junior League of Asheville in 1964. The next year, the league donated the center to the City of Asheville.
Harvest House organizes regular day trips, pot lucks and lunch outings for seniors and offers anything from book clubs and card games to outdoor shuffle board. It was the recent site for an arts and crafts expo and regularly hosts area entertainers.
And, Dansby adds, the people who use the center add to the atmosphere with contributions of time and skills. One Harvest House regular refelts the pool tables when needed while another restored a player piano and donated it to the center. Game nights and book clubs are led by enthusiasts who take it upon themselves to keep up with calendars and manage lists of participants. “Every group tends to evolve to have its own leaders,” Dansby says.
Elenore Lemey, who herself leads a bookclub but also enjoys playing in with ladies pool group, agrees.
“Harvest House offers a lot that interests people. It is a special place because people make fast friends here. It promotes camaraderie and a feeling of well-being.”
Harvest House is operated by the City of Asheville Parks and Recreation Department, and, alongside the Senior Opportunity Center at 36 Grove Street, is one of two community centers specializing in programming for seniors. For more information, call (828) 350-2051 or visit the Parks and Recreation website.