WENATCHEE — David Tosch has been on the job for just three months, but the new honcho at the local senior center has already supervised projects that’ll provide places to park cars and, ahem, butts.
“I’m learning to do a little bit of everything around here,” laughed the 61-year-old Tosch, hired in July as the executive director of the Wenatchee Valley Senior Activity Center. He cleared an electric drill and other tools from the chair in his office for visitors. “Careful, some of these things are sharp.”
“Everything” has included construction of a new 70-space parking lot on the center’s north side and overseeing installation in center restrooms of 11 water-saving “senior comfort” toilets — the kind with raised seats and easy-flush levers.
“Both of these are big projects that have real value for the center’s membership,” he said. “We’ve been desperate for more parking for years. And, believe me, the toilets are welcome additions.”
The parking lot was a project inherited from the facility’s former executive director, Lori Kostors, who resigned in May after five years on the job. The upgraded toilets were a volunteer project of Lowe’s Heroes, a program of the home improvement chain to benefit local causes. The work was completed last weekend by local Lowe’s employees.
Tosch said the projects are part of the ongoing evolution of NCW’s largest organization for senior citizens. The 42-year-old group has more than 1,800 members and an annual budget of $800,000. In November, the senior center will celebrate 20 years in its bustling facility at 1312 Maple St.
Inside, the center hosts daily exercise classes, Wii bowling matches, all-day pingpong competitions, a nutrition program that includes a daily lunch and classes that cover everything from crafts to card-playing to computers. The center is also home for one of the area’s most active thrift shops — which earns $200,000 annually for the organization — and home base for dozens of bus trips to Northwest destinations each year.
The center is also a venue for frequent dances, fundraiser crab feeds and one of the area’s largest holiday bazaars.
“I consider myself lucky to be part of this growth and activity,” said Tosch. “Plus it’s a lot of fun.”
A native of Cashmere, Tosch graduated from Cashmere High School and spent 20 years in the U.S. Army as a quartermaster (logistics). He followed that up with more than 15 years in the Tacoma area as an investment advisor and insurance consultant. He retired to the Wenatchee Valley two years ago with hopes of immersing himself in community activities.
“I always knew I’d be returning home to be part of this community,” said Tosch. “I know it’s a cliche, but you reach a point in life when it’s time to give back to the community and the people that have meant so much over the years.”
One primary challenge for the senior center, he said, is balancing activities designed for longtime members who are aging and slowing physically with more active pursuits that will appeal to the interests of baby boomers.
As a boomer himself, Tosch said he encourages his friends and acquaintances to look closely at what the senior center has to offer.
“The thing I hear the most from boomers is that they’re not old enough yet to join a senior center,” he said, “even though they’re often in their 60s or older.” But what many of them don’t know, he said, is that “when we say ‘activity center,’ we really do emphasize the activity aspects.”
The center’s traditional activities — such as craft classes and day-trips to area casinos — won’t be abandoned, he said. But on the drawing board are plans for more classes on tech topics and educational trips that should have stronger boomer appeal.
In the end, said Tosch, age and activities take a back seat to the person-to-person contact that flourishes at the senior center, where seniors go to meet friends and have fun.
“This job is all about people,” said the new director. “Talking, listening, helping, laughing — those are the important things. That’s what makes this job worthwhile.”