PLAISTOW — Mikki Elliott, 90, of Atkinson kept her knitting needles working on a skein of teal blue yarn as she chatted with friends at the Vic Geary Center.

Yesterday was supposed to be Craft Day at the center, but when the activity leader was forced to cancel the event due to a death in the family, Elliott and the other seniors showed they knew how to make the best of the situation.

The senior citizens spent the morning knitting mittens, blankets and rugs, some of which will be sold to raise money for the struggling center as it operates with a reduced budget. The leftovers will be given to needy families and veterans next winter.

Elliott and other seniors said they appreciate having the Vic Geary Center.

"When I came here three years ago from Florida, I didn't know a soul — except my son and daughter-in-law," she said. "Now, I have a million wonderful friends. You can find someone over here who likes what you like to do."

Elliott and Jane O'Brien, 74, of Hampstead said they like to go to restaurants with others from the center. They also go on trips and even play bingo together.

"We play a nickel a card, so you could afford to lose," Elliott said with a laugh. "It doesn't cost a fortune to play over here."

But hard times have meant cutbacks in some programs for the senior citizens, according to Joyce Burns, administrative assistant to the center's board of directors.

"We're doing the best we can," she said, but the center is on a budget. "Especially on the teas and socials, I've had to cut way back. We don't feed them as well as we used to."

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said he couldn't put more money in the budget this year than was allocated, even though more people are using the senior recreation programs. As a creative solution, he has tried letting local companies know they can sponsor teas and socials at the center.

So far, nobody's stepped up to help with the teas and socials, Burns said.

But the center has received donations from companies such as Wal-Mart and organizations like the Plaistow Lions Club, according to Bob Walsh of Hampstead. His wife, Flo Walsh, 70, said some donations have come as materials, such as Venetian blinds.

Bob Walsh, 78, a trustee, said the American Legion owns the building, but several towns, including Atkinson, Hampstead and Plaistow, contribute money to run the center and maintain the property.

The local Meals on Wheels is based there, and the center also provides sit-down weekday lunches for seniors.

"I enjoy myself here," Judith Grahamsaid. Graham, 64, showed off a pair of baby mittens she knitted. She learned to knit six years ago after her husband died, and found eager teachers and helpers among her friends at the center.

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