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Elderhostel and Washington County Community College

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Contact Info
Name: Tina Erskine
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Phone: (207) 454-1002
Date Submitted: October 26, 2012

CALAIS- You don’t have to be from California or Florida to enjoy all of the benefits and fun of the Elderhostel program that is right in your own backyard.
Jeanne Guisinger of Perry has been the program coordinator for Washington County Community College Elderhostel program for the past seven years. Elderhostel itself has been around since the 1970s. Today the program is known as Road Scholars.
Sailing, hiking and kayaking are just a few of the weeklong things you can do while in Washington County and you don’t have to be experienced to participate. The programs begin with the basics.
And it is not all about physical activities, there are other weeklong courses including cooking with Robbinston Chef Audrey Patterson as well as a brick-oven building class called Bread Builders.
Those who take the Bread Builders program have a hands-on week of learning how to build a full-size Quebec Clay Oven. After that they learn the nuances of baking bread in the outdoor oven. Because the Road Scholar course is community-service oriented the brick ovens are built as a service to local non-profit agencies. One year, participants built one at the Cobscook Community Learning Center in Trescott, a non-profit educational group.
In addition to being fun, the program is education driven and open to people of all ages. Most of the participants in the Elderhostel program are in their 60s, but there also are intergenerational programs for grandparents and grandchildren. “Every program has to have at least four-hours of education. That is what makes Elderhostel different from other programs,” Guisinger said. Each class has a maximum of 22 participants. The weeklong course begins on Sunday night with dinner and ends Friday morning. Classes run from June through October.
Although most of the participants are from other states and Canada, Guisinger said that it is also open to local people who just want to have an Elderhostel experience. She said they can participate in the daylong event without having to stay locally.
Guisinger credits the success of the program to its team. Tess and Steve Ftorek of Cobscook Hike and Paddle and Scott Fraser and Stephanie Allard of WCCC’s Adventure Recreation and Tourism program. On occasion, Guisinger’s husband, Gary, also is pressed into service. “He does the sailing program,” she said. “We do one program where we just go out on the schooner three times a week for about five hours a day. Such a hard job,” she said with a laugh.
Those people who come from other parts of the country and Canada stay in many of the areas B&B’s. They eat at local restaurants. “The economic impact of this program on the communities is tremendous, she said. “Say you have 150 people during the summer; they spend in the vicinity of $1,000 each just for the program. Then they spend money to get here. And when they get here there is shopping in town. So if those 150 people say at minimum spend $1,000, which is $150,000 in new money for the community.”
Elderhostel and Road Scholar participants praise the region. They can’t believe they are walking through the area communities and people are saying “Hi. Glad to see you. Thank you for coming.” They love it,’” she said.
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