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Broken bones wont stop Tualatin woman from helping others

(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer living in Tigard. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com .)

Until this past March, Tualatin's Betty Thomas, 85, wasn't letting anything slow her down. Then, while attending her grandson's wedding in Arizona, she broke her leg in three places. Ever since she's used a walker to assist with mobility - a fact that annoys her greatly. Still, walker or not, she's as active as ever.

At the Tualatin/Durham Senior Center, Thomas gets her hands into everything: She volunteers to roll silverware for the salad bar. She plays cards, participates in Bingo, assists with the coffee setup, picks up bread and pastry donations from Haggens and Starbucks, mingles with friends and helps out wherever needed. She has been coming to the center for 11 years.

'I roll silverware with a napkin every morning except Friday, when I'm playing Bingo,' Thomas says.

'We each put a dollar in for that,' she says of the Friday Bingo events. 'And then the one that wins at the end - we divide the money. I won it twice! I won $10.'

Thomas moved to the Tualatin area in 1995, after selling the coastal home she shared with her late husband. Her husband had been the captain of a tugboat on the Willamette River.

'He barged all of the material down to the Saint John's Bridge,' Thomas says with pride.

She has two daughters in the Portland area and a son down in Sunriver. One of her daughters helps her with her grocery shopping every week - an adjustment they made after Thomas started using a walker.

'I've never had a broken bone in my life, so I had to go to Arizona to break it in three different places,' Thomas says. 'We drove down, but I flew back to get to my own doctor.'

Despite decreased mobility and soreness that lingers nearly a year later, Thomas remains upbeat. 'Just seeing all the people,' she says, is her favorite part of coming to the center. She says that playing cards - Rummy and Pinochle - is also one of her favorite things to do.

Although born in Waterloo, Iowa, Thomas has been an Oregon resident since she was four years old. Most of her family remains in Oregon, as well.

When she's not at the senior center, Thomas is at home or church. Mostly, though, she's here and she couldn't be happier: 'It's just fun to come here, eat lunch and talk with different people,' she says.

'A little bit of this and a little bit of that,' she says to describe her roles at the center. 'Wherever they want me, I work.'

The Tualatin/ Durham Senior Center is housed in a building owned by the city of Tualatin, but run by the nonprofit group Loaves and Fishes Center, Inc.

The Senior Center provides services to seniors in the form of exercise programs, quilting groups, art and computer classes, dance instruction, cards and games, wellness lectures and more.

The center is located at 8513 S.W. Tualatin Road in Tualatin.