MARQUETTE - Chocolay Township's 2-month-old senior drop-in center has gotten off to a successful start, filling a need in the community at no cost to the township. Called "Coffee, Cards and Conversation," the group meets one to two days a week to provide social activity for local seniors that is close to home.
Chocolay Township Trustee Judy White said the group has provided her with camaraderie and fellowship after a difficult loss.
"(It) gets me out of the house in the winter," White said. "After my husband died, I didn't know what to do with myself, so I've made some good friends...I've got a cribbage partner again."
Harvey resident Forest Libby contemplates his next checkers move at the Chocolay Township senior drop-in center. (Journal photo by Mary Wardell)
From left, Jennie Salo, Bev Raisanen, Denise Dawydko and Jean Goodwin enjoy themselves while keeping productive with knitting and crocheting at the center. (Journal photo by Mary Wardell)
Their summer hours are 1 to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and will switch to the same time on Tuesdays and Thursdays come Sept. 9.
Committee Chair of the drop-in center Robert (Bob) Mercure said a letter initially emerged at a township meeting saying that local seniors wanted a senior center, but the idea was met with some opposition.
"Someone put out a flier that said it was going to cost the township way too much money," Mercure said. "So I came into a township meeting and I said, 'We can do this on a dime.'"
A retired high school principal and wrestling coach, Mercure said he made the case that if they used the township hall for space, they didn't need any outside funding.
"We don't need any money," Mercure said. "We take donations of goodies, mainly coffee. And we would appreciate a dollar donation (from participants), and that pot has been filling up every week."
The dollar donations cover the cost of cookies, pretzels, juice and other snacks, Mercure said. Coffee was donated anonymously and sometimes people bring baked goods to share.
"It's self-serve," he said. "So if someone wants to do something, they're in charge of that."
Activities include knitting and crocheting, playing cribbage and other card games, checkers, conversation and lots of joking around.
Harvey native Forest Libby has boasted something of a winning streak at checkers since the group began, even though he was a little out of practice.
"I played in 1954 when I was in the army," he said. "But I hadn't played since then."
In a moment of confusion over the rules of the game, he made a confession.
"I got my own rules," he joked. "That's why I win."
The group has also invited community members to come and share their expertise in activities like flower arranging and arm-knitting, they celebrate birthdays and have a monthly potluck.
"We eat like kings, and we always have about 25 people for (the potlucks)," Mercure said. "Normally, it's only about a dozen. 'Where there's food,' you know."
Jean Goodwin, who attends regularly with her husband, Leo, said she appreciates the proximity - it's only about two miles from their home in Beaver Grove to the Chocolay Township Hall.
"If we were going to Marquette, it's at least 10 miles," Goodwin said, a distance that can be a significant deterrent in winter.
Mercure, who has set up a tri-fold poster board with all the schedules and activities for the Marquette and Negaunee Senior Centers as well as Northern Michigan University's Lifelong Learning Center, said their relationship to neighboring centers is collaborative.
"I'm not wanting to replace the Marquette Senior Center at all. (Chocolay seniors) just don't want to drive into town," he explained. "So we're really a satellite of theirs, but we're operating at no cost."
Tuesday, July 8, the group is planning a pasty picnic at Presque Isle Park, where they will meet at the township hall, pitch in for the cost of pasties and car pool to the island.
Mercure said activities are open to any retired individual, aged 60 and up, and they don't have to live in Chocolay Township. For more information, call 249-1448.
Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.