For Maria Glanz, leading senior center is a labor of love

“What you see here is a reflection of everyone who works here and brings their experience here.”

Last Friday afternoon was a typical day at Vashon’s Senior Center, which means that the center on Bank Road was packed with members at 2 p.m., chatting after a nutritious hot lunch and a presentation by a speaker.

On Feb. 9, the menu was creamy veggie enchiladas, and the speaker was Cyrus Anderson, sharing his knowledge about Vashon’s history and heritage.

But those activities were only a fraction of Senior Center’s offerings — earlier that week, speaker Ben Goetzel had fascinated the crowd with a demonstration of his humanoid robot, Grace, and writer Jeannie Okimoto had given a lively talk about her book and play, “Walter’s Muse” — a love story celebrating a late-life romance.

By the time Friday’s enchiladas were served, the center had already welcomed its members to hot lunches on Monday and Wednesday, card and board games, Music Mend Minds singing sessions, Zumba, Tai Chi and Spanish classes, and groups that meet around shared interest in books, crafting, scrapbooking, photography, painting and more throughout the week.

Unseen were Senior Center programs aimed at less mobile island seniors: home delivery of hot lunches, the Center’s Bluebird Medical Transportation program for those needing rides to appointments, and its Villages program — an expansive effort designed to build a web of community-based support for all island seniors in their homes and neighborhoods.

The whirl of activity is all overseen by Maria Glanz, who this month is marking her first anniversary as the Center’s executive director.

Glanz brings a wealth of applicable experience to her role after a rich career in the performing arts.

As a member of Vashon’s UMO Ensemble, she’s written and performed in award-winning productions by the group, several of which have toured nationwide.

But her life in the arts also honed her skills as a grant writer and communications specialist for theater and nonprofit groups — expertise she now applies to at the Senior Center.

“I love variety,” Glanz said, in an interview last week. “My mind is used to running a lot of different channels at once — I’ve got the present going on, a little bit of next week and next month going on, and I’ve got an idea for the next three years. All that gets to co-exist here, and I think the arts totally trained me for that.”

Glanz said that her leadership at the Senior Center is also based on the guiding principle of all her former work: intensive cooperation and co-creation with others.

“What you see here is a reflection of everyone who works here and brings their experience here,” she said.

Praising the board and staff of the Senior Center, Glanz said she had taken on her director role after an eight-month stint managing the Center’s Villages program.

“I saw that organization itself bubbled along beautifully day to day,” she said. “Everyone here was just so fully doing their work with extraordinary competence and love and care. This is a beautiful place.”

But Glanz’s role now, she said, is more than overseeing all those activities — it is also envisioning an even more expansive role for the Senior Center on an isolated, ferry-dependent island with an increasingly elderly population.

According to 2020 census data, those aged 45 and over now account for 42% of Vashon’s total population. Nearly 17% of the island is 65 or older.

And while many well-attended in-person programs at the Senior Center are thriving, Glanz said that she is also now focused on ensuring, for the long-term, that Vashon is an aging-friendly island — able to support both home-bound seniors as well as islanders in her own age group and younger who are now caring for elderly parents.

She urged islanders to support the Senior Center financially — adding to its generous funding from King County’s Veterans Seniors and Human Services levy, Puget Sound Energy and other major donors — as well as show up to help in person.

The center’s Villages program is particularly in need of volunteers, as it widens its telephone check-in programs for more isolated seniors on the island, she said.

“The folks who come to the Senior Center are the extroverts,” she said. “But there are a lot of folks at home who aren’t joiners, who are lonely and would benefit from a check-in call. We already do that, but I am seeing how much I think that is going to need to grow.”

To find out more about Vashon Senior Center and its Villages program, visit and

Senior Center Happenings

Active Performance

Old-time string band Frog Holler will play toe-tapping music for square dancing at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16. Follow easy instructions before each dance that will get everyone moving. No partner is necessary.

Black History Month

The Senior Center will celebrate Black History Month at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, with the film, “Black History Activators.”

Haven House

At 12 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, seniors can take a trip to Haven House, Vashon’s newest nonprofit animal rescue and welfare organization. Contact Pamela Wickard at the Center at 206-463-5173 or for more information, or to inquire about a ride.

Watercolor Class

Islanders can bring supplies to join local artists from 2-4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, as they paint away the afternoon.

Embracing the Muse

The second offering of “Embracing the Muse: Following a More Creative Path,” with Vashon author Sally Jean Fox, will take place at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28. Island artists Richard Osborne and Suzanna Leigh will join in the conversation.

Armchair Travel

At 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, islander Barbara Gustafson will take islanders on an adventure to Scotland with the latest talk in her series, “Armchair Travel.”

At the Library

Vashon’s King County Library and Vashon Senior Center Book Group will meet from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb 28, at the Vashon Library. The theme is “Celebrating Black History Month” — stop by the library where there are displays that focus on the theme.