If the true worth of a building is based on what goes on within its walls, then the Hudson Valley Community Center (HVCC) in Poughkeepsie is a pretty valuable place. “It’s an amazing facility,” says Alan Goldsmith, director of senior programming at HVCC. “I don’t think there’s anything else like it in the Poughkeepsie area, in terms of a building that has so much available to the community to use: a pool, a gymnasium, a fitness center, spaces to hold events… and I think our prices are reasonable.”
Goldsmith coordinates the Center’s programs for seniors, and as he points out, issues related to aging aren’t the sum total of one’s interests when one gets to a certain age. “Seniors have cultural and intellectual interests like people of any age, and it would get very tiresome if we only had programming related to Medicare and health insurance.” The senior programs at HVCC were developed with that age group in mind, he says, but the content is interesting to adults of all ages; the drawback for adults working full-time is getting to the programs that take place in the middle of the day.
The “Lunch & Learn” program every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. is a case in point. Billed as “where noonish gets really interesting,” the center offers coffee and a “nosh” from 11 to 11:30 a.m., followed by a stimulating hourlong talk or performance. Lunch is served at 12:30 p.m. The cost is $5 to attend the entire program or $2 for the program without lunch. An optional session of Brain Games follows the lunch at 1 p.m.
The speakers for the programs are varied and cover a wide variety of interests. Recent Lunch & Learns have featured a participatory drum circle, a talk about scandals of the Gilded Age, a newspaper editor speaking about the changing face of journalism, a State of the County report from Dutchess County executive Marcus Molinaro and a “Socrates Café” that provided a forum to discuss an ethical or philosophical question through Socratic dialogue. Upcoming Lunch & Learn programs in May will feature a poetry reading by Laurence Sansone, poet laureate of Beacon, and the Poughkeepsie High School jazz combo making a return visit.
The next Lunch & Learn on Wednesday, April 23 will feature Sister Peggy Murphy, professor of Religious Studies at Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh. Her talk will focus on the moving and transformative experience that she had while attending last summer’s International Seminar on Holocaust Education at Yad Vashem in Israel.
Until very recently (January first of this year), the Hudson Valley Community Center was the Jewish Community Center of Dutchess County, with a long history going back to 1923 serving those of the Jewish faith. While the Center is now more broadly focused on programming for all faiths, there are still Jewish values at the heart of some of the programming and a strong community of Jewish members who have been with the Center for some time.
The center will acknowledge Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah), which falls on Monday, April 28 this year, with Mirage Theatre’s Distant Survivors, a dramatic adaptation of Holocaust-related poetry by William Heyen. Mirage’s artistic director June Prager was born in Poland and spent the first few years of her life on the run from the Nazis with her parents. Performances will be held on Saturday, April 26 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 27 at 3 p.m. General admission seating costs $15, or $10 for seniors and students. Reservations at (845) 471-0433 are strongly recommended, as seating in the intimate “black box”-style setting is limited.
Other programs for seniors include a book club, a knitting and crochet group and the Conversational Yiddish Club. At the other end of the age spectrum, the Early Childhood Center at HVCC is licensed by the state Office of Children and Family Services. Preschool, holiday and afterschool programs are offered. For older children, there are camps coming this summer, including an all-stars competitive cheerleading camp. Tryouts will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 13 and 14 at 5:30 p.m. for boys and girls ages four and up.
For all ages, the well-maintained fitness center has state-of-the-art circuit training machines, along with treadmills, bicycles, an ab-roller, boxing gear and a Stairmaster. A personal trainer is available. The pool offers lap swimming and open swim sessions, aquatherapy, aquatic exercise classes and swimming lessons, along with lifeguarding and CPR education classes.
A day pass for non-members costs $6 for use of the entire center if accompanied by an HVCC member or $6 per facility (gym, pool, fitness room) for non-members on their own. The facilities can be rented out for any number of activities. The auditorium holds up to 300 people, and there are two conference rooms. The gym can be rented for any team’s athletic practice, and even the pool is available at hourly rates.
But in addition to all the programming that HVCC offers, says Goldsmith, “We want to be a home to other groups and services.” Dutchess County’s Office for the Aging will soon begin serving lunches for seniors on weekdays (except for Wednesdays, when Lunch & Learn happens), and the Stringendo music program for youth – which includes the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers and the Orchestra School of the Hudson Valley – holds its summer music programs at the site.
And then there’s the dance held in the Center’s auditorium on the third Friday of every month for disabled adults and their caregivers. The Star Dances, organized by Poughkeepsie-based minister Jule DeBow, feature a live deejay and refreshments, and draw several hundred people at nominal charge. The next dance takes place on Friday, April 18 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Hudson Valley Community Center, 110 South Grand Avenue, Poughkeepsie; (845) 471-0430, www.hvcommunitycenter.com.