By Kathleen Spring
In April 2008, Kathleen Spring completed a four part series on the history of Lyons Golden Gang. This month she reviewed hundreds of “senior” articles that she has written since then and has accumulated them in Part 5-6, covering the last five years of activities of Lyons various senior agencies and organizations.
Senior or not, most people have heard of the group of elders called the Lyons Golden Gang. Its name celebrates the “golden years” of
people, originally referring to retired people, but today adding those age fifty-five years or more. It was formed to give seniors a place to go to socialize and enjoy a low-cost nutritious meal. As part of the fraternizing, the group provides entertainment and activities. Lyons Area Advisory Council on Aging (LACCA) obtained grants to provide special senior services, including educational, fun, or archival materials. In this Part 5, we list some of those activities and memories that made members feel like part of a larger family over the past five years. In Part 6, the organizations that made it all happen will be detailed.
From 2007 to 2011, members of the Lyons Golden Gang focused on fund-raising through breakfasts, dinners, and craft sales, being put on by loyal volunteers and officers. President Mary Hunt established committees to take care of business, requiring all officers to chair one, and all members to join one. It resulted in no one person carrying the burden, and the group feeling more like a family supporting one another. At crafts booths there could be as many as ten people working, so that it was a light job. Very hard-working fundraising chairs have been Donna Cole, Rich Wallace, and Shirley DeVeny.
It was a big loss for the group when Mary had to increasingly limit her volunteer time after she had to move to Longmont, because of her husband Don’s health concerns. Likewise, extraordinary volunteer Donna left the group in the fall of 2012 after participating since 1998. But both felt it was time for them to leave the new members to their new ways, and to spend more time with home matters.
The group focused on handmade crafts for its two biggest fundraisers, at Good Old Days and at their Christmas Bazaar at Oddfellows hall. Dan Ballard (not a member) ran the show that brought in the most money for ten years, the Good Old Days motorcycle ride and show. However, it ended in 2009 due to a dispute over supervisory jurisdiction.
Since 2011, members’ participation in fundraisers started to dwindle. Most of the long-time member volunteers resigned due to being burnt out. Money was tight and in 2011 and 2012, the Volunteer Appreciation Lunch did not happen. They currently have only a half dozen people who volunteer.
The current board mainly relies on monthly BINGO games that only bring in about ten to twenty-five people a month, and garage sales for fundraising. The three-day garage sales bring in close to the same amount that the one-day meal fundraisers did, approximately $300. When strong leaders sought out donations, to pay for food and supplies, the profits rose. The Harvest Dinner brought in, after expenses, $700. In 2007, Dan Ballard got his raffle license from the state of Colorado and it doubled the profits from his motorcycle show fundraiser. He left for a few years because of a dispute; but, came back in 2012. He joked that he is now qualified to be a member because he was over fifty-five years old. He expanded his raffle idea and got five board members to get Colorado BINGO licenses in 2012.
Beyond the fundraisers, a few groups have stepped up to make big and small donations to the group on their own during these five years. The group is always very grateful.
Thanks to the Lyons Garden Club volunteers: Sapan Rinpoche, Vance French, and Steve Mitsell. Thanks to all the meals-on-wheels drivers, with Wayne Werner winning the Volunteer of the Year award. Thanks to newsletter editors: Lori Bellport, Monica Stevenson, and Sandy Cottrell; and to Kathleen Spring for her articles and monthly SPOT on senior interviews. Thanks to the people who took photos each month and displayed them, and those who kept the photo album up to date: Max Harkalis, Mary Hunt, MaryLou Wallace, and Kathleen Spring. Also thanks to all those who helped here and there, to clear a table or donate a craft item for the fundraisers, and to the many speakers, musicians, and groups; every little bit helped!
The lunches served by the Golden Gang at the Walt Self Senior Center meet standards for proper nutrition, and usually includes an entree, side dish, and/or salad, sometimes bread and dessert, plus a beverage. It is cooked in the Longmont Meals-on-Wheels kitchen. It is a goal to bring the Lyons kitchen up to government standards and raise funds to hire a cook to prepare more appetizing meals in town.
For years, attendance generally would run twenty to thirty people. Today, the membership attending lunches is down to approximately eight to twelve people, with up to about twenty on special days. About six of the old-time members still attend on occasion. Many of the attendees have their lunch cost subsidized by the Golden Gang.
The cost of lunch was reduced more than a year ago to “below cost” at $2.50 to entice more people to come, but it was unsuccessful. Due to the rising amount of the budget spent on meals, the price was brought back up to “cost” at $3.25 in 2012. It is considered to be the lowest priced senior meal in Boulder County. Administrator Lori Bellport introduced a successful Adopt a Senior program, where people could pay $3 toward a senior meal. It was usually offered during the Christmas bazaar.
Another food resource for low-income seniors was the Lyons Food Bank, which was established by the Lyons Community Church in 2009. At Christmas and Thanksgiving, different groups would provide seniors with a free holiday meal box.
In 2009, three organizations were giving free lunches each month to the Golden Gang seniors. Great meals were served by Wild Bill’s Grill (Marty Wellington and the Tulls) and to Peaks Care Center (Jean Mendez). Over the years, generous Dale Katechis continues to offer a free monthly lunch at Oskar Blues. Since 2011 free monthly Monday suppers are offered to all Lyons seniors by Lyons Community Church and the River Church, with the Catholic Church contributing quarterly.
Activities For Active Seniors
Lyons has one of the most extensive and least expensive activities programs in Boulder County. For the year 2013, the Town’s Parks and Recreation Department has been given an increased budget to provide craft activities specifically for seniors. Supervisor Paula Randazzo had a half-time job with teens and half-time with seniors beginning in 2008. She did a few craft programs in 2012, but it wasn’t until her replacement Adriana Blacker began this spring that the Town put a bigger agenda into effect. Paula also worked with the GAP group that brought teens and the elderly together to do activities (see LAACA).
While the fundraisers were a lot of work, they also were fun fellowship with members. If a member couldn’t knit or cook, they were asked to contribute time or money, resulting in loyalty and pride in the group. President Mary Hunt and secretary and fundraising chair Donna Cole were the driving force.
Thanks to VIA Mobility (formerly Special Transit), Lyons seniors get up to four free field trip bus rides each year. Some of the most popular trips have been: U. S. Mint, Colorado Outdoor Concert, Fiske Planetarium, Salute to Seniors, Heritage Village Train, Wildlife Sanctuary, and several visits to art and history museum special shows. Thanks to Kathleen Spring, who coordinated the exciting events and lunches over the past three years. The Recreation Department has taken over the trips effective this year.
Kitchen manager MaryLou worked with others to bring back the weekly BINGO game (no money involved), bring in spot massage therapists, have monthly speakers, holiday-oriented parties, This is Your Life, and more. Throughout the month, speakers came from Boulder County, travelogues were given, three chefs came several times to give live demonstrations, youth groups came and sang, and professional musicians performed. Frequent entertainers included: humorist Don Hunt, ventriloquist Edna Green, singers Zeke and Jani Little, singing group Quarry Gals, keyboardist Donna Cole, the Lyons Band consisting of Bob Allen, Don Colard, Dewey Montez, and other guests, and singer Vance French.
Vance performed on guitars, banjo, mandolin and keyboard at almost every birthday party and special event. In the beginning he conducted special programs twice a month that told the history of the songs he was singing. He was a good example of the volunteer-ethic of the group, as he also volunteered at all the other fundraising events. He has retired this spring, which has brought a somber silence to the lunch room.
Many of the trips and activities were attended by twelve to twenty-five people. In 2012-13, attendance dwindled, with most Golden Gang and Town sponsored talks, classes and activities often attended by four to six people, with many being cancelled. With the loss of strong enthusiastic leaders who gathered people to volunteer and do big fundraisers, making people feel a part of a group, membership now has little fortification or loyalty. But everyone agrees and hopes that this is only a bump in the road, and new adventuresome seniors will join and bring it back to life.
The liaisons between the senior groups and the Lyons Town Board during this period included Nick Angelo, Tina Schooler, Ed Bruder, and Connie Sullivan. All had high intentions to help the group of people that they loved, but Ed Bruder was the one that made actual strides. In addition to attending every board meeting and event, he was part of a group that brought free internet service to the senior center. He was key in putting on the Aging Well symposium in 2011, which included speakers and vendors addressing senior needs in Lyons.
LAACA was best known for providing educational speakers. They also originated the popular Generationally Active People (GAP) group to break the communication gap between teens and the elderly. They provided free transportation to the annual Senior Day at the Capitol. And, they began the first oral histories in Lyons.
In Remembrance of our fellow Golden Gang Members