Shortly after she retired, Tessa LeBaron decided to check out the Dorothy C. Benson Center in Sandy Springs to see if offered anything that might interest her. It did.

“I had no idea how vibrant retirement can be,” she said.

Soon, she was a regular at the center, which celebrated its 13th birthday with a barn dance on Oct. 25.

“The Benson Center, for me, is actually the center of the universe,” LeBaron said. “I make all my friends here. I take classes. I watch movies. We travel. I can do everything you want to do with people of your own age.”

One recent morning, she and Anthea Stamelatos were sitting at a table in the lobby of the center playing Scrabble. The two met during programs at the Benson Center, one of four Fulton County senior citizens centers and the only one located in north Fulton County. Now, the two regularly get together at the facility at 6500 Vernon Woods Drive. “We have the $2 breakfast and play Scrabble,” LeBaron said.

The center is named for north Fulton resident Dorothy Benson. At 91, she still regularly takes part in activities at the center. Fulton Senior Services Manager Andre Gregory, who runs the facility, said 3,500 seniors are registered for the facility’s programs. An average of 250 to 350 people come to the facility each day, he said. Programs range from classes in painting or digital photography to how to use email to sessions practicing Tai Chi or playing bridge, he said.

The facility is open to residents aged 55 and older. Programs are free for Fulton County residents. Seniors from outside Fulton County can take part, but must pay an annual fee of $100, he said. About 100 do, he said. Fulton County spends about $1.5 million a year on the facility, he said.

Benson Center
Anthea Stamelatos, left, and Tessa LeBaron play Scrabble in the lobby of the Dorothy C. Benson Senior Multi-Purpose Complex.

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.