Charley Baxter, NLR Senior Citizens Outreach Services: North Little Rock.
Baxter said he thought 1,500 members would be a good goal for the Patrick Henry Hays Senior Citizen Center he directs. But at the end of last year, it had 8,000 members and Baxter is looking for ways to expand its programs.
He oversees five full-time employees, 16 part-time employees and some 200 volunteers who follow Baxter's example of "embracing everyone who comes through the door."
Baxter, 56, directed North Little Rock's Community Development Agency for 28 years before becoming executive director of the North Little Rock Housing Authority in 1998. In 2002, the city reorganized its agencies and Baxter took over leadership of the senior citizens programs and has reformed it into one of the best in the state.
The program gets its base funding from the city, but membership dues and donations have increased to make up a third of the funding for its growing list of programs.
The Hays center was once primarily a location for fitness programs, but Baxter attributes its overwhelming popularity to the addition of social activities and to the partnerships he has formed with other agencies that focus on senior citizens.
While the indoor heated pool, indoor walking track, weight system and treadmills are still a big draw, newer programs offer line dancing and ballroom dancing and gospel singing. A game with jigsaw puzzles may see 600-700 visitors each day. There are also art classes and a computer bank with 10 computers for those wanting to learn more.
The programs have grown enough to make Baxter and the city look for possible satellite locations.
Baxter also serves as vice president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority and serves on the board of CareLink.