Maumelle’s Senior Wellness Center is so popular that new programs and schedules are in the works, and it has such a need for volunteers to teach and help with classes that the center has hired a new staff member just to recruit volunteers.

Nicole Heaps, center director, said Patricia Holt is the new volunteer coordinator, and Maumelle residents should expect to see more of her as both reach out to the community to try and recruit volunteers who can help with the new, additional programs.

Maumelle has an abundance of highly trained and certified residents, who are more than qualified to teach a variety of classes, Heaps said. But, the center hopes to reach out to a previously undiscovered teacher who has unusual or special talent that can be shared with others in classes.

The volunteers don’t have to be retired because classes can often be arranged to accommodate the teacher’s schedule.

Starting in September, the center will change its class schedule to a format that makes it easier for teachers and students to create a learning environment, Heaps said.

Classes will be seven-week based classes, which Heaps said they believe is the ideal learning environment.

All of the classes offered at the center are based upon the concept that you’re never too old to learn.

Some of the more popular programs have been those taught by retired University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor Ralph Desmarais.

The retired professor will teach "Events That Changed History" beginning Aug. 2. It will include lectures and discussion of the Russian Revolution, the Depression and stock market crash, Hitler’s Germany and World War II, Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, Mao Zedong and Communist China, the dropping of the atomic bomb, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,and the Civil Rights movement and the events of September 11, 2001.

The classes will run through Aug. 30, meeting at 12:15 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. Class size is limited to 20 members, so Heaps encouraged interested students to sign up early.

In addition to the American History class, a Tai Chi class is scheduled. Developed in China for self defense, Tai Chi is now more designed for stress reduction using slower, gentle movements.

There are many more classes, but one of the most popular events at the center is the bean-bag baseball games. The games are free at 10:30 a.m. every Thursday and at 12:30 p.m. on Fridays.

Everyone can play, Heaps said, and it’s catching on all over the country. By tossing a bean bag into holes with different values like a single, double, triple and even home runs, players advance and score runs.

With nine players on a team, it’s an excellent team-building sport, she said.

A recently formed Men’s Club is also a big hit with the group going off site to attend military and other history sites. On Aug. 14, the group will go to the Jacksonville Military Museum, which includes a treasure trove of memorabilia and historical artifacts from the Little Rock Air Force Base and a new display on the ICBM missiles that were buried in 18 Arkansas missile silos spread around the state during the height of the Cold War.

All types of volunteers are needed, Holt said. One area that is always in need of volunteers is the kitchen because of all the meals the center provides.

Chefs especially are needed. Although there’s a place for a trained chef, a volunteer chef doesn’t have to be trained in the profession, Heaps said.

Mostly the center is looking for someone who has experience cooking for a large group.

Former school cafeteria cooks would qualify as would chefs who may have cooked only occasionally for church or civic groups.

Not all kitchen staff are cooks or chefs, Heaps said. They have an ever greater need for porters — wait staff to help prepare the food and deliver it to the guests.

The center also has developed special programs designed to help low-income seniors obtain medical and dental care, Heaps said.

She said next month the group will work with the Counting On Each Other non-profit organization to provide much needed hearing aids for needy adults.

First there will be a free hearing test for anyone from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Aug. 14 at the center and from there a limited number of appropriate seniors who meet the income requirements will receive free hearing aids, Heaps said.

One of the areas where the most volunteers are needed and one of the most popular programs for needy seniors is medical transportation and other transportation around town.

The center provides daily shuttle service to and from the center with curb side pick up at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. 12:30 p.m. and a new 3 p.m. pickup.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the center provides around town shuttle service starting around 9:30 a.m. and ending at 12:30 p.m.

For more information or to schedule a ride, call Patricia Holt at 851-4344.

Heaps said the center is really growing with more than 900 members right now and with new members joining every week. She said annual growth is averaging around 23 percent.

New programs, like Conversational Spanish, are being added weekly, and new volunteers are needed to carry out the programs and services. The minimum age for volunteers is 14, and teenagers that age or older should be encouraged to sign up, Heaps said.

The Maumelle Senior Wellness Center is a hub of activity and a popular place to be. Anyone with suggestions, questions or comments is encouraged to call and talk to any of the staff members, Heaps said.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering or who would just like to know more about the program should call the center at 851-4344.