By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — About 20 women sat around tables pushed into a u-shape in the lower level of Seton Center on a recent Tuesday morning. It was a regular meeting of the Senior Buddies, a program begun some years ago to help older folks in the neighborhood stay active and connected with each other.
Under the leadership of Opal Blankinship, members, mostly women, meet twice a week for activity planning or other business, Bingo and lunch.
Through membership on committees, members contribute time and talent to the group, each in her own special way. President Joyce Johnson, vice president Dessie Morrison, secretary Ruth Shoat, assistant secretary Clara McBride, treasurer Ruth Hege and bus coordinator Sarah Kennedy were all duly nominated and elected to serve for two years.
Irma Murray serves as assistant chaplain and helps lead the Senior Buddies in spiritual devotion.
Blankinship has served as Senior Buddies director for about 15 years. She knows the people and the neighborhood well; her husband, G. Lawrence Blankinship, who died in 2006, was a member of Kansas City’s City Council.
A Seton Center van drives members to and from their meetings.
Along with the meetings and Bingo, members enjoy activities including trips to northern Missouri to visit Jamesport twice a year, lunch and a Wal-Mart shopping trip every third Friday, occasional movies and twice monthly exercise classes. Periodically, a Bingo Tournament is held. A trip to Branson for shopping, plays and shows and, “we get hungry, so we eat!” has been scheduled several times in the past years, and the group hopes to revive it this year. Every three months the Senior Buddies hold a Birthday Bash, celebrating all member birthdays during that period.
The annual Christmas Party early in December has been partnered by the Federal Reserve Bank for many years, Blankinship said. The bank asks for Christmas wish lists from each Senior Buddy and, she said, gives exactly what has been asked for. Blankinship picks up and distributes the gifts at the party.
At one of the meetings the following week, Seton Center’s executive director Sister of Charity of Leavenworth Loretto Marie Cowell provides treats for lunch.
Some of the members quilt, and a few years ago, they made lap quilts to give to a local nursing home.
One member proudly makes blankets and each year gifts another Buddy with a blanket.
Some of the members wear multiple hats. Assistant secretary Clara McBride is “our wonderful cook;” the mouth-watering fragrance of homemade soup wafting through the room was mmm, mmm! She and the Food Committee, Maxine Hughes, Juanita Broughton, Doris Andrews and Minnie Patterson manage lunches and special events.
While the Senior Buddies have busy lives, they find treasure in the friends and activities of the group. Joyce: “It’s amazing how nice everyone is!” Marcie: “I love the fellowship.”
Clara: “I’ve met some of the most beautiful, talented and gifted people through Senior Buddies.”
Buddies patronize or volunteer for several other Seton Center or neighborhood programs. “I love the Thrift Shop!” “I love the exercise!” “I volunteer at a nursing home and pray with them.”
Seton Center’s Director of Social Services Latoya Walker has made two presentations for the Senior Buddies. One was about Thanksgiving and the other was on Domestic Violence. She said she plans to offer monthly presentations on topics of interest or concern to the Senior Buddies, including possibly stress management.
Seton Center was founded in 1969, and has assisted residents of the neighborhood, from babies to Buddies in many ways over the years, including emergency assistance, food pantry, counseling and referrals, jobs and employment referrals, and more.
For more information about Seton Center, contact (816) 231-3955 or visit www.setonkc.org.