THE RECENT OPENING of the Brooklyn Park Senior Center has resulted in many positive changes for the community. Where area seniors once were served by only a nutrition site, they now are enjoying a variety of programs, classes ranging from ceramics to computer science, and the opportunity to meet five days a week to enjoy each other's company.
But there is a downside.
They no longer will be greeted by the cheerful voice of volunteer Elizabeth Hildt as they enter the door. After 20 years of volunteer service, she is retiring from her duties at the center.
Hildt has seen the county's services to seniors in Brooklyn Park grow through her two decades from a once-a-week nutrition program at the Arundel Improvement Association building at 705 Cross St.
When the nutrition site was moved to the Brooklyn Park Library, the program grew to four days a week. It moved again, to Hammonds Lane when Brooklyn Park-Lindale Middle School closed, then took up residence at nearby Arundel Village Shopping Center during the school building's renovation as a multi-use community center - including the senior center.
One constant through all the moves was Hildt's dedication to the seniors at each site. Her responsibilities included manning the front desk, processing routine paperwork, arranging monthly trips and handling the recordkeeping on lunch orders.
"It's important for seniors to get one good meal a day. It's easier to fix a sandwich than to prepare a meal, and fast food is not what seniors need. When we were at the library we had lunch one day a week; now there is lunch every day," Hildt said.
One day a week, members of the Korean community gather at the center, where sampling Korean delicacies has made for a pleasant change to the regular "American" lunch menu.
"The Korean seniors have encouraged us to join them. People enjoy trying something new, and now we're getting a taste for Korean food. At first we had no idea what they were serving. It is very nice, something different," she said.
A retired teacher, Hildt has made Brooklyn Park her home for 55 years. She was born in Hanover and moved here with her husband when they married. She began teaching at Solley Elementary, spent 27 years at Baltimore's School No. 203 in Brooklyn - now known as Marie Farring Elementary School - and taught at a private kindergarten for 10 years before ending her career at Park Elementary.
Former pupils remember her fondly.
"I can be out cutting the hedge and someone will pull their car over and say, `Miss Hildt, do you remember me?'" she says.
"One young man who pulled over had a full beard and asked if I recognized him. I replied that too much of his face was covered for me to recognize him. Then he started to tell me about some of the things that he did in school, and, of course, I did remember him. He said that he just wanted to say how much he enjoyed my class. I even got to teach a second generation of students, and I loved every minute of it."
Keeping busy is not a problem for Hildt. She is the newly elected secretary for the Brooklyn Heights Improvement Association, secretary of the Northern District Police Community Relations Council, president of the Brooklyn Park-Brooklyn Heights Women's Club, secretary for the Arundel Improvement Association, secretary for the association's branch of the county Office for Senior Activities and Services, membership chairwoman for the Free State Day Lily Society, secretary of the Garden Club of Brooklyn and a volunteer at the Brooklyn Park Library.
Asked how she manages to keep such an active schedule, Hildt said: "Well, it's just me, myself and I. If I don't turn on the idiot box, I can get things done."
Even though she no longer will be volunteering at the senior center, Hildt does not intend to be a stranger there. She has signed up for classes in ceramics, flower arranging and other crafts.
"It's such a wonderful place, like a dream come true. It's fascinating how the site has grown. We are no longer a site; now we're a center. We have had 80 people in one day come in for line dancing or computer class."
Hildt received a citation from the Department of Aging for her efforts over the years.
"You know," she said, "I never thought that it made a difference whether I was there or not. Now I know that it was appreciated."
Ready for 2001?
It's time to start planning how to celebrate the real beginning of the millennium - the arrival of 2001. And the Roland Terrace Democratic Club, 616 Matthews Ave., has a suggestion.
The Club is holding a New Year's Eve Dance from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Admission of $30 will cover a steak dinner, limited open bar and a cold buffet later in the evening. Glenn and the Gemstones will provide the music.
Reservations: Ray Cadden at 410-789-1914 or the club at 410- 636-1504
Olde B.P. meeting
Capt. Ronald Bateman, commander of the county police's Northern District, will discuss crime in the district at Tuesday's meeting of the Olde Brooklyn Park Improvement Association.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Brooklyn Park Elementary School, 14th Avenue and Morgan Road.