The annual conference of the North Carolina Association of Senior Citizens Clubs was held Nov. 6–8 at the Ramada Plaza (formerly Sundance Plaza) hotel, attracting hundreds of people from across the state.
Among them was 90 year-old Pearlie May Dixon, who has scarcely missed a conference since joining the Elect (seniors’) Club in Asheville more than 30 years ago.
“Oh honey, that’s my vacation,” Dixon said of the gatherings, which are held in a different city each year. “You meet so many nice friends.”
At home in Asheville, Dixon, a former NCASCC state queen, keeps herself busy with a variety of social obligations. In addition to the seniors’ club, Dixon belongs to three other social organizations. Despite her busy schedule, Dixon says she always makes time for the NCASSC annual meeting, an event she anticipates all year long.
“Old as I am, I don’t like a lot of drinking,” the retired hospital employee said of her motivation to attend the conference, which will be held in her hometown next year. “I like clean fun, always have. That’s the reason why I’m 90 years old.”
Larn Dillard, a Winston-Salem resident who serves as president of the NCASCC, said being involved in the organization has kept her young.
“It’s kept me active, and look at me – no one believes my age,” declared Dillard, who is 83 years-young. “I always go to the fair and win prizes (in the age-guessing contests).”
Dillard first got involved in senior clubs through her mother, who was a member of the Skyland Senior Citizens Club, one of the city’s oldest seniors’ groups. When she retired as a school counselor in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School district after 38 years of service, Dillard became involved in earnest. This year’s conference featured a sampling of information sessions on issues that affect seniors – from creating a living will to preventing falls.
“We get information about how to take care of ourselves, how to protect ourselves … we get all kinds of information that seniors will need,” Dillard noted. “It’s helpful hints for seniors.”
The conference also offered plenty of opportunities for participants to relax, have fun and simply enjoy each other’s company. Highlights of the Twin City event included a line dancing session, several movie screenings, a 21st century fashion show and a scrapbooking competition, where Winston-Salem’s own Carver Senior Citizens Club took second place this year. The seniors were also encouraged to shop and explore the city on their own.
“The main thing I want them to do is just come to Winston-Salem and get a feel of the hospitality here,” said District V Advisor Dorinda Phillips, supervisor of the Rupert Bell Neighborhood Center and one of the conference’s organizers.
City leaders welcomed visitors to the city during the Nov. 6 opening session.
“There are few things that you can’t buy; you can’t buy health and you can’t buy experience,” said Tim Grant, director of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department, whose facilities are home to several local seniors’ clubs. “What I would implore all of you to do is value the experience that you have gained in life and find someone younger than you to share it with … this is what we need from you all, is to bring value to our community.”
Mayor Allen Joines also spoke to attendees.
Renita Thompkins Linville, a local attorney and the first lady of Piney Grove Baptist Church, delivered an impassioned keynote address, expounding upon the conference’s theme, “Building Harmony, Inspiration and Peace.”
“Our builder and our maker is God. Everything that is built on that rock will stand,” she told the group. “If you, as willing vessels, allow Him to use you to be builders of harmony, inspiration and peace, not only will it permeate your families, your communities, your cities and your state, it will permeate the world.”
Linville encouraged those present to work together, with each member using his or her unique gifts to help the organization live up to the lofty goals established by the conference’s theme.
“You have the power to influence generations to come – this is your legacy and this is their inheritance,” she intoned. “You should plant the seeds of harmony, inspiration and peace everywhere you go.”
Following the conclusion of the conference on Friday, Dixon headed home to begin collecting her spare change in a jar – her reserve for next year’s event – already anticipating another reunion with her comrades.
“The people are so friendly,” she declared. “I look forward to seeing them next year.”