Founder takes a break

GRANTS PASS — For the first time in many years, there will be no holiday dinner at the Grants Pass Community Center on Christmas Day. But representatives speaking on behalf of the nonprofit organization's longtime director are optimistic about the future.

At 73, Scealle Duckworth has spent almost half her life nurturing the social hub formerly known as the Vitality Center at the corner of Fourth and L streets. Lately, the spirited Duckworth hasn't been feeling well, and her family has stepped in to help.

"She hasn't been feeling her usual productive self," said Duckworth's son-in-law, Barry Blackstone. "She's about coming out of her skin from boredom, but after years of nonstop work she needs a break." Blackstone and his wife, Marsha (Duckworth) Blackstone, are acting managers at the facility while Duckworth rests up.

Duckworth started the center in 1979 in a building on M Street as a place where people, particularly senior citizens, could socialize, take classes to improve their health and form lasting friendships. By the late 1980s, the center had outgrown the space, so Duckworth purchased a 10,400-square-foot building at 234 S.W. L St., which still serves as the center's home.

"No one helped me out with the center financially, and anything I could do to keep it going, I did," Duckworth said during an interview in 2008. "We held many fundraisers, including a lot of dinner shows, and the people who've taught here have contributed half of their tuition fees. For many years I got up at 5 a.m. to cook breakfast for the Kiwanis Club at the center every week to bring in money, and I donated everything I earned teaching classes to the center to help pay the bills."

For years, Duckworth prepared free Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for about 150 community members who were looking for companionship during the holidays.

She's also taught yoga classes and coordinated workshops, dances and other activities for people of all ages. She was sidelined in 2008 when she damaged four spinal discs while lifting a fax machine at the center.

"She's a great woman," said Bob Armstrong, president of the Old Time Radio Players, a group that frequently performs at the center. "We had a show just the other day, and she wasn't there. Normally, she never misses a performance. We hope she feels better."

Armstrong said he hopes Duckworth will be well enough to attend the players' February show, "Ozzie Buys Harriet a Valentine."

"She loves the shows," Armstrong said. "She's our biggest fan."

Stacy D. Stumbo is a reporter for the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Reach her at 541-474-3806 or

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