Four ladies enthusiastically eyed their dominoes on Monday afternoon at the Golden Acres community room. A fly swatter, or “a weapon,” rested at the table on which they play. Behind them were two walkers Golden Acres resident Thelma Chambers jokingly referred to as “our Cadillacs.”
The reality of their gaming oasis was merely a dream of three men more than 25 years ago, all of whom hoped to erect the city’s first retirement center.
The men — Wylie Cox, K.E. Livingston and J.T. Clegg — have since passed away. But the retirement center has expanded two times, doubled its occupancy levels (from 50 to 100 apartments) and at 2 p.m. on Sunday will gather residents and the community for its 25th anniversary.
Originally, the 105-resident apartment complex was slated to only house retired teachers, according to Cotton Clark, former president of the Golden Acres board of directors, but to get roughly $1 million from the government for the first phase the planners needed to expand criteria to include residents with low incomes.
Cox, who served as the first president on the board of directors, donated about 11 acres to the cause as well. He and his wife would later move there. Livingston for a time served as vice president and Clegg as secretary/treasurer.
Golden Acres is owned and operated by Portales Retirement Housing, a private corporation, and still receives a portion of financing from the government, according to LuElla Powers, co-director of Golden Acres.
She noted that a retirement center was in high demand before Golden Acres’ first opened.
A plaque of tribute to the founders at the community center harbors a quote by philosopher William James that reads: “The great use of a life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”
Given that definition, the four ladies playing dominoes on Monday said they are glad the three followed through with their idea.
“I wouldn’t trade where I live for the world,” Chambers said. “The people here take care of us. I couldn’t live any other place. I’m lucky to be here.”
The people Chambers’ referred to were Lee Roy and LuElla Powers, the center’s directors. Both said they are looking forward to the 25th anniversary reception which includes food, tours and a speech from Mayor Orlando Ortega.
“I’m glad they are having this anniversary,” Lee Roy Powers said. “It’s something to show recognition to the place, and it’s good to be a part of it. And it’s good to work for the elderly and the handicapped.”
Even though Golden Acres is not a nursing home nor an assisted living facility, residents there say they feel safe under its roof, and can count on the directors if trouble arises.
“I like it here, I feel safe. They take care of us and mow the yard. Going to the mailbox is like a social event, because you see all the other residents,” Ruby Thompson said between games of 42, one of the many variations of dominoes the four ladies embrace on a weekly basis.
Thompson has been a resident since 1992. Playing games like dominoes, she said, is a tradition at Golden Acres.