PORTER | The Duneland Seniors Group is an avenue for area seniors to connect through friendship, fun and community involvement.
The group meets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays at Hawthorne Park community building, 500 Ackerman Drive, and offers activities, trips and avenues to connect seniors to their community.
Marking its two-year anniversary, the group was resurrected by Rondi Wightman and Cathy Ellis after a former organization lost is formal funding.
“In the mid-2000s, the group lost formal funding and formal structure. There was nothing here for seniors. The building (Hawthorne Park) had been dedicated for seniors,” Wightman said. “We saw the need and talked to the (park) board about what we wanted to do. We had two brainstorming luncheons and invited the community, old and maybe new participants and asked, ‘What would you like?’ ‘What would bring you out?’”
A corporate trainer helped facilitate the sessions.
“We had every single table write down their ideas. We went around table to table and had everyone share ideas and grouped them together,” Wightman said. “We took the Top 6 popular ideas and had six months of resources committed by the park board.”
Today, they have 90 paid members, a yearly health fair fund-raiser, have donated to Best Buddies Pet Pantry and gift baskets to local seniors in need and participated in the Fourth of July parade with a float.
The group has a board of directors to help plan activities and members also decided to have dues to support the organization. Anyone older than 55 can join and it costs $20 a year per person.
“We have a structure with the first week being the general meeting and birthday celebrations. We tend to do speakers at the end of the month,” Wightman said. “We do trips… we had lunch on a boat in Saugatuck (Mich.) and went up and down the river and went to a Christmas concert.”
She sees first-hand the importance that the group has for its members. She recited a story of a member who attended the weekly gathering despite having family visiting.
“It made my heart soar. Clearly, people love coming here and love going on trips together,” she said. “Maybe between meetings they will pick up the phone and say, ‘Let’s have dinner together.’
“We hope to be here in the long run.”