June 18, 2018
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New organization reaches out to active senior citizens

by Ardeana Hamlin

of The Weekly Staff


ORONO — Since May, a Yarn Social  takes place 1-2 p.m. every Tuesday at Orono Public Library. Robin Case, owner of The Yarn Barn in Bangor facilitates the group.

“It’s a self-directed knitting social,” Case said. “I can help with crocheting, cross stitch, needlepoint and knitting.”

The number of those attending varies from week to week with as few as three or as many as seven, Case said. “But there is room for ten to twelve around the table,” she said.

For the most part, attendees are knitting — hats, scarves, shawls, a sweater, Christmas stockings and purple caps for infants to raise awareness of shaken baby syndrome — in a variety of fibers, including alpaca, wool and acrylic.

Case said space for the group to meet at the library is booked right through until next May.

The Yarn Social is sponsored by Gateway Seniors Without Walls, a new organization fueled by volunteers and based in Orono. There is no cost to attend the Yarn Social, just as there is no cost to attend most other Gateway Seniors Without Walls activities.

“We work with Old Town, Orono and Veazie and the University of Maine Center on Aging, but we welcome people from other towns,” said Ann Davidoff, an active senior citizen, who led efforts to secure a grant from the Maine Community Foundation to help found the Gateway Seniors organization. “I did not think there were activities that gave enough variety for active seniors. There are lots of seniors around who can go and do things with younger people. I thought there was a need for that,” Davidoff said when asked what led her to found the organization.

Activities, such as the Yarn Social, are led by volunteers who offer their time and skills.

“Our activities are for relatively active seniors,” Davidoff said, “though we welcome anyone even if they aren’t seniors.”

The idea for Gateway Seniors Without Walls originated, Davidoff said, with her neighbor Stan Freeman, a former University of Maine chancellor, who formed the Committee of the Future, which looked at issues important to seniors in coming years. “I’ve been the one to carry it on,” Davidoff said. “I’m very enthusiastic.”

Gateway Seniors Without Walls holds its activities in spaces that can be obtained without cost, such as libraries, town council chambers, the Birch Street Senior Center in Orono, churches, and at the university. “We’re trying to get programs [for seniors] going at the university — painting, exercise and music,” Case said. “We want to offer stimulating activities.”

Gateway Seniors Without Walls has a board of advisers consisting of eight volunteers, and a board of directors composed of seven volunteers. Davidoff said the organization needs only $25,000 to keep it going.

The organization is seeking volunteers. “We need people with lots of energy,” Davidoff said. Volunteers are needed to do publicity about upcoming activities, to provide funding and to do fundraising, someone to program activities and those with skills to lead activities such as music, painting, writing, crafts, opera conversations over dinner, sustainable health care, cooking for one, fall foliage tours, flower arranging, legal documents for seniors, thrifty shopping, hikes, gardening, wildlife lectures, origins of the holidays lectures, women in leadership roles, sing-alongs, to arrange pot luck suppers or communal cooking sessions, and to coordinate trips such as museum tours and hikes.

“And it’s all free,” Davidoff said, “except for restaurant outings when everyone pays for their own food.”

For information about Gateway Seniors Without Walls, to volunteer or to inquire about making a monetary donation, call Davidoff at 889-3031.

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