Gerlach Senior Center – Donations Wish List

Gerlach’s elders could use a few things, y’all.

The Nevada town just outside the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man occurs is home to a small but thriving population of senior citizens. Rather than head towards the nursing homes of Reno, the elders in this dusty Western hamlet pretty much decided to hunker down and stick together. A Senior Center was created, where they can rely on each other for support, which allows them to live at their own homes for what seems like longer than most old folks get to, or maybe ‘til the last, as most of us would prefer.

Senior Center painting of Gerlach's iconic Water Tower, by someone named Livermore, done in 1978
Senior Center painting of Gerlach’s iconic Water Tower, by someone named Livermore, done in 1978

Weekday lunches and frequent activities with your friends? Constant contact with your support network? Sounds like a better way to spend those golden years than locked in a bleak hospital for the aging, somewhere far away from the ones you love.

This writer had lunch with the regulars at the Senior Center on Friday, and it was sweet and delicious — cooked by Miss Schatzi, the Center’s director, chef, and all-around “mom” to the elders in town. The bright and sunny Senior Center features an industrial kitchen, a dining room, and a lounge / living room / library where they play Bingo; lively conversation and laughter filled the room.

Pistols, all of them. This is the Gerlach Seniors' donation box. It felt weird to take photos of people during such a nice lunch, so we took photos of Things after.
Pistols, all of them. This is the Gerlach Seniors’ donation box. It felt weird to take photos of people during such a nice lunch, so we took photos of Things after.

Miss Schatzi would like to be able to make repairs on the place, but there are no tools to be had at the Senior Center yet — not even a screwdriver, she says. And during those weekday lunches, Schatzi plates up hot servings one at a time back in the kitchen and runs them out to the seated Seniors herself. Consequently, she’d love a rolling food-warmer (restaurant-grade) to be able to serve lunch to her crew of a dozen-to-eighteen simultaneously, so the seniors can sit down and eat together.

As far as access to the outside world goes, Burning Man LLC has blanketed the whole town of Gerlach with free WiFi signal year-round — but the old folks have yet to take advantage of teaching themselves how to use the Internet because they don’t have a computer at the Senior Center. Similarly, the Seniors enjoy Gerlach’s movie nights, thrown by Taz in Bruno’s Restaurant back room, but they can’t hear as well — so they’d like to watch movies in their own clubhouse, at the volume of their choice, but they have no TV and no DVD player.

These are modern conveniences some of us take for granted, situated as many of us are in relative comfort, in or near consumer-goods-laden towns full of Craigslist scores to be had whenever we need something new or gently used. Obtainium (i.e. that which others throw away) is everywhere — in the cities. Gerlach is an isolated place, but maybe with a little help, the lovely Seniors in town can be outfitted in the manner to which they should be accustomed.

Very cool reading materials, Gerlach Senior Center -- though long winters mean wishes for more large-print books and puzzles
Very cool reading materials, Gerlach Senior Center — though long winters mean wishes for more large-print books and puzzles

You see where we’re going with this, of course. It’s just the Burning Man / Cacophony Society community is so good at Tom Sawyering up whatever needs conjuring … 

So hey, if anyone’s got any of the below wish-list items to donate, as well as a way to get said items to the Center, then read on.


A regular-window-sized swamp cooler / evaporator
A large flat-screen TV
A DVD player
Sturdy bookshelf and DVD shelf
Two 4-person, square tables (not foldable, for safety reasons)
Eight comfy chairs for the 2 tables (stackable ok but not foldable – NO CLOTH only vinyl or leather for washability)
A *gas* outdoor grill for 12 to 18 person cookout (thank you Dave)
“K Kup” Coffeemaker – or an off-brand – an individual-serving coffeemaker so Miss Schatzi doesn’t throw out six cups of cold coffee every day
A tool kit – nothing industrial, just home repair tools in a toolbox (thank you BRC Hardware)
A desktop computer with a large screen for senior eyes
A wheeled food warmer / butler with 12-to-18-plate capacity
Large-piece puzzles, because regular-sized-piece ones are too small
Large-print books, particularly sci-fi, Western, and history

Of course, capital donations would also empower the Seniors to make their clubhouse a home, because bills always need paying. One way or another, many hands might make light work in causing the Gerlach seniors to be as comfortable and happy as you’d want your own grandparents to be. [*cough* techies w/ $ *cough*]

Mail checks, shipped items, or even greeting cards to: Gerlach Senior Center, PO Box 69 (yes. really. 69. yes really) Gerlach, NV 89412. Not sure how they’d receive a credit card donation as they’re not online yet.

Please, if you’ve got a wish-list somethin’ for the seniors, *CONTACT* MISS SCHATZI before August 24 at the Senior Center, (775) 557-2206. That means don’t just come bearing gifts without having spoken to her. She says there’s a boring outgoing message she can’t figure out how to change, but leave a message for her anyway.

Of course let’s not just drop off donations at the Center door — that’s uncool — and let’s not offer to bring her anything less than the best and non-brokenest things. If Burning Man participants are going to disrupt the Gerlach seniors’ sightline once a year, then at least maybe we can style out their clubhouse ‘til they forgive us for being so weird and loud sometimes. [*grin*]

These are some of the faces which will smile even more at their wish-listses coming true.
These are some of the faces which will smile even more at their wish-listses coming true.

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About the author: Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes

Summer Burkes has been rousting about at Burning Man since 1998. She first met her dusty DPW / Cyclecide / Bike Club fam-dambly on the back of The Bucket. A Cacophony Society enthusiast, Summer loves explosions and cake.

11 Comments on “Gerlach Senior Center – Donations Wish List

  • Dan says:

    In the documentary Beyond Black Rock they show a shuttle bus of seniors touring some of the major art, is that these same folk? Is that tour an annual thing now?

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  • Splinter Mathwood says:

    Can we just start up a little old Kickstarter for them? That stuff all together can’t be more than $4000.00. Heck, you could make the maximum donation possible $ 5.00 and we’d still get er done right quick.

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  • Summer says:

    Dan – I haven’t seen the documentary so wouldn’t know but — probably it was them or some seniors from neighboring counties. The ARTery certainly takes seniors on art tours.

    Splinter – that sounds like a great idea! U know how to do Kickstarter? :D

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  • Rocky says:

    Dan – the Gerlach Senior Center goes on a tour of Black Rock City every year. They’ll be out again this year. They send a fantastic thank you card; it’s so sweet.

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  • Colleen says:

    Hi, I’m from BRC Hardware Shoppe, and, in keeping with our theme, we’d love to donate a tool kit for maintenance at the Center. I tried to call the number listed in the above article, and I got a disconnected message. Got any other suggestions on how to get a hold of them?

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  • Piston says:

    I found this phone number online: (775) 557-2206

    Looks like it may be a little typo in the blog.

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  • Whoops, thanks y’all; I fixed it. Awkward. NOW let’s see if the offers start coming in.
    and thanks to your camp, Colleen… BRC Hardware Shoppe is the best!

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  • Heidi McCluskey says:

    The Pyramid Lake Elders too have a thriving program that is run by Dehan Dominguez, the number at the Senior Center is 775-574-1064. Our Tribal Elder program has endured many budget cuts over the years….they too would agree that every little bit helps! When your driving through Nixon, and you see the beautiful mural painted on the wall….that is the back wall of the Tribal Senior Center. Each year our Tribal Elders get to take a tour of Black Rock City (my mom has gone on the tour too!), they really get a kick out of checking out all that Black Rock City has to offer………..

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  • Okay yall, we’ve got 2 calls to the Center already, but one, from Dan, left no return number! So please call back. It’s hilarious watching this generational gap in action — the Senior Center has an analog phone that doesn’t display who’s calling.

    Thank you Heidi — yes, let’s collectively figure out how to style out ALL the seniors around here.

    I hope this campaign works, for Gerlach seniors and Nixon seniors both, and that I didn’t miss the WOO (Window Of Opportunity) by getting all dyslexic on the original phone number. Also, no Paypal or other online donation avenue yet, but we’re working on it… thanks for your support so far!

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  • Sam says:

    I bought one commercial swamp cooler and built one from scratch. I’m bringing both to compare desert performance but I know I only want to keep / store the one I built. Anyway we can arrange a drop off of goods on playa so everyone doesn’t have to bother the center after the burn?

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  • That sounds good, the commercial one! Do you think you could blow the dust out of it first with an air compressor? … If so, please find a ranger and have them radio me, Summer, on DPW Dispatch channel – I can give better dropoff coordinates then based on who’s going to town with space in their car. THANKS yall!

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