All fun and games: Seniors gather to play cards twice a week at the Windsor Community Recreation Center |

All fun and games: Seniors gather to play cards twice a week at the Windsor Community Recreation Center

Trevor Reid

As Delores Lenocker balled up wrapping paper in the middle of a game of White Elephant one recent Wednesday afternoon at the Windsor Community Recreation Center, she turned and asked with a snicker:

"Should I throw it at him?"

She tossed the ball across the table at Jim Patton, who took no time in returning the playful gesture. Jokes were lobbed across the room with even greater frequency, and some stretched over the backs of their chairs to get a better view as people opened presents.

It was the holiday season, but this seemed like just another day for the seniors who make up the Windsor Mahjong and Cards Group. The group of seniors meet Wednesdays and Fridays to play games such as mahjong, bridge and pinochle in the Aspen Room at the recreation center, 250 11th St.

Merry Petrovich of Windsor started the group after she went almost a full year without a regular mahjong group. In February of 2015, Petrovich moved to Windsor from Arizona, where she first developed a love for mahjong. She asked Recreation Supervisor Jay Eckhardt if there was a senior center in the area. There was a room available for seniors, but no one had gotten around to setting up regular games there, he said.

"I just needed friends," Petrovich said laughed.

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So after putting out a questionnaire for what games people wanted to play, Petrovich started contacting people. The recreation center set up tables and provided all kinds of games, and the group held its first meeting Jan. 4, 2016.

The group has since grown to about 50 regular members, many of who go twice a week. Some regulars drive out from Fort Collins or Greeley, and many Windsor residents bring guests when they have visitors from out-of-town. For Kim Randsell of Greeley, there are a few reasons to make the drive.

"The personalities. The atmosphere. The joyfulness. The friendships," Randsell said.

Randsell said she's felt welcome since her first time with the group in April. It doesn't take long to get a sense of belonging in the group, she said.

"We have quiet ones, and we have loud ones," she said. "We have people who want to reach out to everyone and people who are just there to enjoy."

Every meeting is casual, offering members a wide range of games to play. Many members are well-versed in the four different types of mahjong: Chinese, American, Siamese and marvelous. On Fridays, they'll often play rounds of Chinese mahjong and switch between groups to encourage people to make new friends.

The working memory required for mahjong requires players to recall what kinds of matches will score the most points as players call out tiles they play. Games can pass at a fast pace among experienced players, but many members expressed an eagerness to teach those who aren't familiar with the game.

"I think we've made friends over the past year," Petrovich said. "We started out not knowing each other and, after week after week, this becomes your family."

Letha Price of Windsor agreed.

"You feel like they're your sisters. And a couple brothers," she said.

In June, Price won a tournament Petrovich coordinated between groups from Windsor, Fort Collins and Loveland. The tournament was so popular, Petrovich said, she had to start turning people away. In turn, the Fort Collins group invited the Windsor group to play in Fort Collins sometime.

Petrovich said the group helps seniors build a social life with people their own age. As some lose spouses, children get busy with their careers or move away, the Windsor Mahjong and Cards group helps seniors stay active.

"If we don't see someone for a couple of weeks, we're on the phone calling them to make sure everything's okay," Petrovich said.

Randsell said anyone with an interest in the group should at least visit once to try it. The coffee's always on, and there's room for people of all personalities. The group welcomes visitors of all ages as well. Those who don't feel right with the group don't have to return. But those who do can make friends and, with a little time, family.

"You feel at home," Lenocker said.

To Play

The group of seniors meet 12:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays to play games such as mahjong, bridge and pinochle in the Aspen Room at the Windsor Community Recreation Center, 250 11th St. The games are open to anyone and are free.