It’s been 20 years since the Gillespie Center opened in Mound thanks to the endowment of Bill Gillespie

“We’ve really worked hard to offer a lot of things for people here; we’ve evolved through the years,” said Mindy Anderson.

Anderson has been Gillespie’s executive director for 15 of those 20 years and has seen how the center has changed, creating for itself a niche that extends beyond community center.

Mixed in with the Monday night square dancing, the photography and art, the once-a-month Wednesday “Country Jam” and the new ukulele and Men’s Sheds groups are classes in defensive driving, the annual Westonka blood drive and on-site social services.

“We have really reached out to the community over the past 15 years and really built strong relationships with the people around town, whether the schools and the churches or the Mound community blood drive,” said Anderson.

In celebration, Gillespie is hosting a 20-year anniversary party on Friday, Oct. 15 and Saturday, Oct. 16.

Those 20 years—and especially the past decade—are a big reason why Gillespie is still here. A decision made 10 years ago to save for the future has carried the center through these past 19 months of pandemic.

“If we didn’t have our reserve funds, we wouldn’t have been able to keep the lights on past the first two months, maybe three months [of COVID-19],” said current Gillespie board president Susan Navratil, who said the reserves started growing more rapidly beginning in 2010.

Even so, the center announced last month that its Hidden Treasures store, which had been housed in the basement, would close end of September—it’s more economically viable to rent out the space.

“Our goal, since we’ve used some of [the reserve money] is to put it back and then grow,” said Navratil.

Part of that growth is likely to come from those who might look a bit different from the majority in Gillespie’s current membership base.

The community center is open to everyone, but having started under the banner of Senior Community Services and having catered especially toward the older population, it hasn’t had too many young faces, and Navratil said it’s the board’s intention to dip into the minds of the younger generation over the next couple of years to see how Gillespie could better serve everyone in the area.

“The Gillespie Center has been kind of in the forefront for providing a place for seniors to get together,” she said. But “Those of us in our 70s don’t always know what those in their 30s want.”

And Gillespie is dipping even younger than those in their 30s, to the hallways of Orono and Mound Westonka high schools, in its quest for continued relevancy beyond the retiree crowd.

New this year is the opening up of the board of directors to area sophomores who want to gain leadership experience and help shape Gillespie for the future. Those interested should ask their student adviser and submit the paper application by Oct. 31.

“The center really is for the whole community,” said Navratil.

GILLESPIE 20TH ANNIVERSARY

The Gillespie Center celebrates 20 years on Friday, Oct. 15 (5:30-9 p.m.) and Saturday, Oct. 16 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

The Friday celebration incudes a fundraiser dinner (made-to-order Italian pasta, 6:45-7:45 p.m.), bar hosted by the Northwest Tonka Lions (6-8:30 p.m.), music by the Twin Cities Jazz Cats, a silent auction, photo booth and guest speakers. Tickets ($45) are available now at the front desk or can be purchased at the door.

The Saturday open house includes square dancing and ukulele demos, balloon animals and face painting starting at 11 a.m. and, from 10:30-11:30 a.m., the Hennepin County Sheriffs K-9 unit, Orono Police and Mound Fire Department. No tickets are required for the Saturday festivities.

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