MARQUETTE - They are the ladies who walk together twice a week at the Marquette Senior Center.
They do more than walk together, though. They laugh, a lot. But beyond that, they watch out for each other.
Their span of ages might be spread over nearly 30 years and their life experiences are varied but all agree on one thing: They hope the City of Marquette Senior Millage Renewal is passed Tuesday.
"The millage is important to us," said Marge Shorkey. "For some people, all they do is come here, to the senior center. Otherwise, they are at home. And they're alone."
The center, which relies in great part on the dedicated millage first passed in 2008, has come to mean a great deal to the walking ladies and many other seniors, they said.
"This place means togetherness," Lenore Waldo said.
"It's camaraderie," Pamela Murray said. "When I moved up here from Florida, I started coming here and everyone has been so wonderful to me. They are my second family."
"(The center) is a home away from home," Helen Dupras.
"We solve no problems," Waldo said, adding with a twinkle. "But we don't create any problems."
When asked what they do at the center, the women listed everything from arts and crafts to exercise class to meals.
"I have been coming here for 36 years," Dupras said. "I was 50 when I started coming. Through the years, I have been getting different people to come. If I know someone is alone, I call them up and get them to come here."
Inez Christian was encouraged to visit the center by her sister, Marge Shorkey.
"She got me coming here after my husband died," Christian said. "It's so nice to be with people here."
"These ladies are an inspiration to others," said Annie Wood, one of the younger walkers. "They are in their 80s and they come here all the time. I started walking here before I was a senior and have continued since I became a senior."
The dedicated senior millage up for renewal Tuesday was approved by city of Marquette voters in 2008.
"I am an extremely strong supporter of the millage," said Stan Bingham, chair of the Senior Task Force for the city of Marquette. "This is a huge thing for seniors. This makes the dollars going to senior services non-touchable without voter approval. It's that simple. It's that important."
Marquette County has a millage that provides some funding for senior services, Bingham said.
"The county millage is divided among all county senior centers. All the centers most definitely are needed," he said. "The millage that is being renewed Tuesday should not be confused with that. This millage is for the city of Marquette. This center serves more people than any other senior center."
Before this millage was passed, Bingham said, the budget for senior services came out of the city's general fund. If the renewal isn't passed?
"That means the money won't be set aside for seniors," he said. "Many seniors need help from the community. They have paid their dues in taxes. Now they've reached the time of life when they should get some of the benefit of paying those dues."
The walking ladies plan to vote on Tuesday and hope others will as well.
"Jane (Palmer, the senior center coordinator) and her crew are so special," Wood said. "They go above and beyond."
"I don't know what we'd do without them," Dupras said. "This place means the world to us all."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.