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Seniors turn out in support of support group
denvel ward
Denvel Ward gets in a game of horseshoes during the Senior Support Group’s membership drive Saturday at Baker Pond. - photo by Photo by Ralna Pearson

Members of the newly formed Senior Support Group held a membership drive at Baker Pond on Saturday. The members spent the warm, summer day sitting around chatting, eating, handing out prizes and playing games.

Larry Exley, 65, found the group as a way for seniors to get together and support one another.

“Well, I look around and I see the need,” he said.

Exley pointed out that seniors face a number of challenges, in particular financial difficulty. Some seniors he knows are barely able to pay their bills.

“We’re kind of falling in the cracks,” he said. “It ain’t going to get no better.”

Prices are steadily rising while social security isn’t rising fast enough, he noted.

Indeed, the reality looks grim for many of this country’s seniors. According to the Institute on Aging, about 10 percent of the elderly were living below the poverty level in 2005. In addition, about seven percent were categorized as “near poor.”

The Social Security Administration reports that social security is the primary income source for most of the elderly.

The average monthly amount for retired workers and their dependents is $1,044.

Unlike larger groups such as the AARP and social service organizations, Exley sees this group as more intimate.

“This is more one on one,” he said, describing the group as fellowship at a local level.

Denvel Ward, 63, heard about the group from Exley. The semi-retired Bulloch County resident joined in part because he likes helping people.

“I love it; I don’t miss a meeting,” he said.

Madie Bestard, 68, found out about it on her way into McDonald’s where signs about the group has been posted on the side of the door.

“I was going to McDonald’s to see if they were hiring over there,” she said. She saw the sign on the side of the door and when she stepped inside, Exley approached her about joining.

She attended her first meeting the following Tuesday.

“I kind of enjoyed it,” she said.

And now she’s a member. She never did find out if McDonald’s was hiring.

The gathering at Baker Pond resembled a party or cookout more than a membership drive. Everyone sat around in lawn chairs talking and enjoying the afternoon and each other.

Exley pointed out that there are about 26 members in the group. Those 55 and older are welcome to join. However, if anyone falls a couple years short of being 55, they will still be accepted.

There are no dues to join and the group tries to meet every Tuesday evening at the Vernon C. Hinely Community Center in Rincon. The group is open to anyone, not just those living in Effingham County.

Some knew each other before joining the group while others did not.

“I don’t know any of them,” said Martha Jane Lanigan about her fellow members.

She just returned to the area last year after being away since 1947. Besides her relatives, she hardly knows anyone in the county.

Exley addressed the crowd before saying grace over their meal.

He asked the crowd to consider having the informal gathering at the park on a monthly basis in light of how well everything turned out on Saturday. He also mentioned that he was thinking of starting a phone network whereby members call each other and give support.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Senior Support Group or joining should contact Larry Exley at 675-0655 or come by his office at 206 East Sixth Street in Rincon.