They may be older, but they sure can bowl!
Story and pictures by Angela Keddy
As I walked into North Bowl Lanes on a bright Sunday morning, music was playing, and I saw many happy, friendly faces. It was RSVP’s 11th annual Bowl-a-thon.
The man at the front desk introduced me to Sandy Sexton, the director of R.S.V.P. She welcomed and thanked me for coming. “As soon as I get a spare minute I will be sure to talk to you, but meanwhile help yourself to the snacks being served,” she says.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program recruits people 55 and over to serve the community as volunteers for local non-profit organizations. Since 1973, they have worked with more than 60 organizations such as schools, the hospital, transportation programs, libraries, nursing homes, and many others. There are over 300 RSVP volunteers, most of whom are in their 70s. RSVP is sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Ogdensburg and is a United Way agency.
The DJ Entertainment Unlimited played various music ranging from “Rock Around the Clock” a classic by Bill Haley, to “Love Shack” by the B-52's, to “Hey Ya” by OutKast. I never suspected that older people would enjoy listening to the music of OutKast. I took a seat and began watching the bowlers.
“I almost fell on that one,” says Dale Forgette. Dale, 51, and Jim Hayes, 68, were on a team by themselves. They both gave each other encouragement, and were laughing at each others mistakes as they played. They were having a great time and at the end of their game, when I asked who won, Dale exclaims, “I won by two pins!”
Both Dale and Jim volunteer at the Senior Center on Elm Street in Plattsburgh. It provides a place for seniors to go and take part in various activities. Seniors can play cards and get their taxes done. It’s a great place for seniors to go and visit with others.
“We’re not bowlers, we’re just volunteers,” says Jim Hayes
Every bowler has to bring in at least $25 to register. Most collected it from different companies. Bowlers who brought in more money received prize packets. People received cash prizes for bringing in the most pledges. The highest pledge was $400 and the Bowl-a-thon made over $6,000 during the day.
Proceeds from the Bowl-a-thon went to benefit the RSVP and its volunteers. “This money helps us provide certain benefits to the volunteers, such as volunteer insurance, mileage reimbursements, and an annual recognition luncheon,” says Sexton. It also helps provide money to recruit more volunteers. Sponsor’s included Sam’s Club, Walker Funeral Home, Plattsburgh Farming Authority, and many others. There were even two teams from Plattsburgh State University (PSU).
While I was there, all participants received T-shirts. Prizes for a raffle were a grill, VCR, and a family pass to Ausable Chasm. Door prizes were also given out.
“Anyone here born in 1937?” MC Gordie Little asks.
A curly blonde- haired woman named Sally Conners, 66, jumped up with waving hands. With a big smile, she went up to get her prize and came back to her lane with the same expression. Even though it wasn’t much, she had won a cute window hanging of a stuffed butterfly.
Conners played with on a team with 3 other women: Shirley Duharme, Etta Gregory, and Nellie Harris. All the women bowl on a senior league at the bowling alley every Wednesday. Two of the women are in their 80's. With a light throw of the bowling ball, one of them got a strike. The teammates applauded and high fives were given.
Connors volunteers at the Chamber of Commerce, the Art’s Club, visits the elderly in nursing homes, and brings her friend to bingo every now and then. Once I began talking to Sally, we found out that we had something in common. Knowing that I went to PSU, she told me that she used to wash blackboards and do some janitorial work in Redcay Hall. “Now, do you have any classes in Redcay?" she asks.
“Ohhh, that makes me wanna shake all over,” says MC Gordie Little, when he finds out someone bowled a 251.
Seeing all the big grins made me smile and it made me think of how much the retired really enjoy events like these. It was obvious they were having a great time just by the excitement in their voices.
The event is planned at the end of March every year. “We plan on the basis of having a good time,” Sexton says.