Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bonner seniors: the class of the city

January 9, 2008

They have been described as "frisky," "feisty," "fun-loving" and "community minded." Yet, they are much, much more and are a vital community asset. They are one of the finest groups in Bonner Springs and they have just completed celebrating their 20th anniversary.

You may have guessed by now that I'm talking about the Bonner Springs Senior Citizens. In late December they completed the observance of their 20th anniversary with a banquet at Tall Oaks. During the program they talked about past trips they have taken and had a fashion show of some of the costumes used for their float in the Tiblow Days parade. It was a time filled with lots of laughter for their members.

The senior center was dedicated in the fall of 1988 and has been a beehive of activity ever since. Drop by on a typical day and you'll find the pool tables busy with "Minnesota Fats" wannabes. If you want a spirited discussion just ask the name of the best player. In addition, you'll see people enjoying card games and food in other areas. Quite simply, it is a busy place where senior citizens can have a lot of fun and fellowship.

It is popular, too. In its 20 years of existence, the center has an average yearly attendance of 8,000. They conduct an average of 396 activities per year. Annually, 1,339 senior citizens take part in day trips. These figures do not include major trips taken periodically. They have traveled throughout the United States as well as Cancun, Canada and Hawaii.

The senior citizens enjoy "mystery luncheons" where participants do not know the restaurant until they arrive. They have visited 228 different restaurants.

A decade or so ago, the senior citizens were big Kansas City Royals fans and took a bus to Kauffman Stadium to enjoy ball games.

The senior citizens certainly make good use of the Tiblow Transit system. The city government that instituted the Tiblow Transit program three decades ago made a wise decision and the service has benefitted area residents of all ages.

The senior citizens don't just meet and have fun. They provide a variety of services to the community. A number of years ago, they decided to award scholarships to Bonner Springs High School seniors. Since that time, they have awarded $500 scholarships to 17 graduates. Other projects include participating in holiday crafts, Read Across America and have worked with Youth Friends and taken part in Grandparents Day. They have sent Christmas cookie baskets to 450 home-bound senior citizens and shipped 77 lab robes to Romanian orphanages through Heart-to-Heart.

To pay for these activities, they conduct a variety of fund-raisers. They bake cookies and have catered dinners for the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville Chamber of Commerce and last week catered dinner for the Wyandotte-Johnson County Mayors Association meeting in Bonner Springs. Yet, their biggest fund-raiser is their annual spaghetti dinner held in August at the First Christian Church. In the 17 year history of the event, 6,375 plates of spaghetti have been served. If you visit the center in the summer, you'll find volunteers hard at work making an afghan or quilt to be given in a drawing during Tiblow Days. The seniors conduct an ice cream social each summer during the city band concert season.

Probably what the seniors are best known for is their float in the Tiblow Days parade. They have competed in the parade for 18 years and have won first place 12 times. In general, they have a spirited, good-natured rivalry with the Bonner Beautiful Commission for the top entry in the parade. The seniors have had some very unique entries and my personal favorite was when they were raisins and carried out the theme, "I Heard it on the Grapevine." At their anniversary celebration, members modeled costumes which have been used on the floats and it certainly brought back great memories. As a longtime parade chairperson, I can certainly tell you that their entry was always very popular.

Much of the success of the senior center has been due to the hard work of its longtime director, Nancy Johnson. Nancy took the reins of the organization in December 1998, and has worked with members and the advisory council over the years to develop outstanding programs and activities.

Congratulations to the senior citizen center and best wishes for another great 20 years of service to area residents.

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