SHELL KNOB TAB: Turning 60 comes with benefits in Shell Knob

Central Crossing Senior Center celebrates 25 years after $50 and a dream

By Sheila Harris

Turning 60 comes with a perk: access to the many activities offered by Central Crossing Senior Center.

In the lakeside community where seasonal tourism and retirees drive the economy, a resource center for seniors seemed logical to five Shell Knob residents in the 1990s.

According to the book, “$50.00 and a Dream,” written by founding member, Glenn Phillips, in 1997, five area residents (Phillips, Denzel Nonof, Charlie Garrison, Ralph Carr and Richard Nierman) pooled $10 each and set about soliciting volunteers to help make their dream of a senior center a reality.

From its noteworthy $50 beginning, the center’s path to its current existence was a bit tenuous, according to Phillips.

“Lending institutions were not sympathetic with our noble purpose, our strong volunteer spirit and our faith in succeeding,” Phillips said.

In spite of multiple financial roadblocks, they gained ground.

Their initial priority, taking over the delivery of meals to homebound residents from the Cassville Senior Center, began from the kitchen of Shell Knob’s Methodist Church, with volunteer drivers and volunteer kitchen help, but the need for their own building quickly became apparent.

The organization first took up temporary residence in the former basement storage room of D&R Custom Blinds, formerly located in the Plaza Shopping Center. There, they installed a kitchen and began serving in-house lunches, in addition to those already being delivered to homebound residents. However, greater obligations required a larger space, and it wasn’t long before expansion, in the form of a permanent building, was called for.

After various conundrums, most of which, bottom line, involved funding, Shell Knob Seniors, Inc. completed construction on the current Central Crossing Senior Center location at 20801 YY 15 Road in Shell Knob in 2003. With the addition of multiple activities and services, the center became extremely popular in the community, and soon, even that building’s 8,500 square feet proved to be inadequate in size.

“We had people in the closets, storage rooms, and even in the halls, playing cards and dominoes,” Phillips said, “so we decided to start raising funds to build a shed, or some way to add [more] storage.”

Thanks to the bequest of former corporation director, Melba Eakin, who passed away in 2012, a 6,000-square-foot addition to the center was completed in 2016. However, its use is not restricted to storage. Multiple rooms in the addition serve a variety of purposes, including card-playing rooms (Bridge, Pitch, Rummy and the like) and an exercise room, where disciplined seniors can wheel away or pump iron on state-of-the-art equipment.

Part of the new addition is leased by Mercy Hospital for use as a rehab and physical therapy center, said current Chief Operations Officer (COO), Gina McIlrath.

“The therapy center saves local residents from having to drive into Cassville or elsewhere for services,” she said.

But, the senior center’s services don’t stop there.

There’s a lending library, as well as a computer lab, where instruction is offered and genealogical research can be conducted.

Seamsters and seamstresses can keep their skills sharp by availing themselves of the quilting machines in the sewing room.

“We make baby quilts to sell, to fund the special quilts we make to give to our area seniors who lose their spouses,” Gina McIlrath said.

One room in the senior facility is full of durable medical equipment: walkers, wheelchairs and supplies that a person doesn’t know they’re going to need, until they need it.

“We loan all of it out to our seniors at no charge,” McIlrath said.

Other services available include Medicare counseling, grief counseling, an Alzheimer’s support group and tax preparation services.

And food. Let’s not forget the food.

SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging leases the kitchen at Central Crossing, Monday through Friday, and prepares tasty lunches, served from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Seniors 60 and over pay $3.50 each, those under age 60 pay $7 each. A menu can be found at

Some diners say they come every day for lunch, others a couple of times a week. Either way, they appreciate the meals that are available close to home.

Home delivery is always an option for meals.

“We delivered a total of 15,540 meals in 2023, with 4,717 hours of volunteer [labor] hours,” McIlrath said,

McIlrath said everyone connected with the senior center is a volunteer, right up to the CEO and other officers, who include — in addition to McIlrath, who serves as Chief Operations Officer – Chief Executive Officer Sam Herkelman, Secretary Maggie Pelzl, Chief Financial Officer Cathy Lank and Chief Publicity Officer Doeg Stroemel.

“The only paid staff are the administrator and cooks who are employees of SeniorAge,” she said.

In February of this year, yet more additions to Central Crossing Senior Center were constructed: a 1,000-square-foot, 100-person storm-safe room and indoor pickleball courts, housed in a structure that boasts almost 5,000 square feet.

Calculating the cost of the building’s self-sufficiency, the volunteer pickleball committee set an annual single membership fee of $200, or $300 for a couple sharing a household. Drop-in players are also welcome at $5 per visit. The age requirement for membership is 60+ years, McIlrath said.

Central Crossing will host an open house for the new pickleball courts on Tuesday, May 7, from 4 – 5:30 p.m.

With the multiple recreational opportunities and services provided by Central Crossing Senior Center, it’s obvious that there are some expenses involved.

“The center is part of a Partners Program, which means we’re supported by annual donations from area businesses,” McIlrath said. “We currently have 32 partners.”

McIlrath said the center also receives a small percentage of property taxes paid in Barry County.

A favorite form of fundraising for the center involves multiple community benefit events scheduled throughout the year, including a BBQ dinner, an Italian dinner, a garage sale, a dance, a car show, and quarterly breakfasts.

McIlrath said the events evolve with time, depending on how popular they are and how long they remain popular.

“We might try something, then opt not to try it again,” she said.           

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Central Crossing Senior Center, a milestone for the community hub which began with a kitty of $50 chipped in by five area residents. 

The two remaining founding members – Phillips and Nonhof – will be present for a special lunch at the center on Aug. 7 (Founder’s Day) to celebrate the center’s anniversary. An open house will be held from 5:30-7 p.m., that evening, where hors d’oeuvres, beverages and desserts will be served to guests.

For lunch menus and more information about the senior center’s activities, visit their website at or call 417-858-6952.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *