The week of June 2, 1962, the Ray Charles hit, “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” was at the top of the billboard, gas prices hovered around 31 cents, and Ferrara Pan’s Lemonheads made their debut on the candy scene.
Also, the Senior Citizens Club of Forest Park was founded that year and would more than quadruple in size in the coming years. Led by Alfred Dinkel, the first meeting was held for 40 seniors, with a potluck, games and singing at the Park District Administration Building.
The club celebrated its 60th anniversary with a luncheon recently at Fat Duck with catered desserts from Twisted Cookie and Oak Park Bakery. The Senior Citizens Club, currently with 50 members, is a nonprofit group that is self-sustaining and one of the robust programs offered in town for older adults. The club meets at the Mohr Community Center every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Entering her ninth consecutive year as president, Sandy Byrnes has continued to focus on providing a social-recreational club for people over 55. “Tuesdays are sometimes the only time some people are out during the week and gives a chance for people to socialize, craft, play games and find out what’s happening,” Byrnes explained. The club also provides opportunities for education. “We have had the paramedics come for blood pressure checks, talk to people about the Vial of Life program, and we keep people posted on the local updates, programs and just have friendships.”
On a normal Tuesday, she sets up four tables for Pokeno, a couple of tables for socialization, and a craft table for people to come and spend the morning. “I love bringing surprises to the group; sometimes I craft gifts; sometimes I do a pop-up event. I love them all and want to make sure everyone is taken care of,” she said. During the pandemic, seniors were unable to meet and really missed the socialization and games on Tuesdays. Byrnes was busy dropping off masks, gift cards, and fun crafts and keeping the local club members connected.
Digging deep into the club’s roots, Byrnes honored the history of the club by presenting some of the early records, calendars, photos, and even shared receipts from 1975 when Schmidt’s Pastry Shop had five dozen sweet rolls for only $12. The Senior Club served coffee and sweets over the decades, and always has been a social club. The annual dues cover the tab for coffee and sweets. With budgets getting tighter, Byrnes noted the club was lucky this past December. “We had donations from the Toys for Tots that Chubs runs, which has really made a difference this year.” As costs have risen, “People were very kind to us, which has helped.”
The Senior Citizen Club is open to new members, with an annual fee of $12, although they will be taking a break, meeting back up in August. Byrnes welcomes her next chapter as president, saying, “I enjoy all the friendships we have made over time and it just makes me happy to see everyone.” Known as the “Energizer Bunny” for her limitless energy, she was nominated again for another term, which is fine with her. “I just love taking care of them,” she said, and is proud to keep the local Senior Club growing for another year.