The “Enhancing the Quality of Life for Senior Citizens in Rural Communities After the Trauma of Katrina/Rita,” a service-learning program, has continued to grow from a 15-member program to an attendance of over 100 since its start in January of 2008. Established by Dr. Grace Tatem, the program meets every Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and serves as a form of recreation for seniors ages 50 plus.
“I look forward to coming every week. I even sit on my front porch waiting for the bus on sunny days. It keeps us [seniors] active,” proclaims 62 year old participant Linda Jones from Ruston. Jones began coming in April 2008 months after the programs start and has been a faithful participant since.
The high-spirited president of the local AARP chapter, Bettye Giles, has been a dedicated member and beacon of laughter of the program. “I encourage all senior citizens to come out.” She went on to humorously suggest to her peers, “Come learn, great, meet, and eat! It’s really a ‘joyable’ experience!”
The program now has dedicated student workers that come out to lend a helping hand to Dr. Tatem. They assist in conducting games such Spinner, Bingo, a host of card games, and Scramble amongst other games.
Known amongst the participants for his incredible Scramble skills is Ed Adams. Ed, one of the assistant directors of the program, is the grandson of Grambling State University’s founder Charles P. Adams. He began mastering his skill by winning tournaments in New Orleans until he was forced to relocate after hurricane Katrina.
He holds the program in high esteems and thanks Dr. Grace Tatem for starting such a program in this area. Since female attendance is dominant in the program, Adams wanted to encourage more men to participate. He challenges them by saying, “I don’t think they can compete.”
Faculty members are also welcome to follow in the steps of Larry Holston, assistant professor of art at Grambling State University, and dedicate some of their time. Holston decided to share his gift of art with the center by conducting a mini-art session where the participants had the opportunity to draw their depiction of a still life project.
“It is a pleasure coming and I love it,” says participant Maurice Gunn. Gunn was forced to leave her job due to her battle with health issues and has found the program to be a beacon of hope for her. “Dr. Tatem has been a blessing.I love her.”
Beginning member Florence Elliot, 82, of Ruston declares that not only has the program been a blessing, but also Dr. Tatem is a blessing. “Grace [Tatem] is such a nice, sweet, hard-working woman. I hate that the program may be coming to an end; but after all, even Dr. Tatem has to take time for herself and rest.”
As much as this program has single-handedly made a major impact in the lives of the seniors in this area for over a year; unfortunately, Dr. Tatem may not be able to continue after this June due to fear of a lack of dedicated volunteers to keep it properly running.
Datin Combs of Grambling, a member since day one of the program, isn’t worried about word of the program ending.
“We have a plan to keep this program going; even if we have to use my own home as a last resort,” protested, assistant director, Combs.
For any seniors that are interested in participating in this free event, it goes without saying that you are more than welcome to come out to the Grambling Recreational Center any Wednesday between the hours of 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. to join in the festivities.
If transportation isn’t available to you, the Humanity Enterprise of Lincoln Parish Agency of Ruston provides transportation free of charge. To make arrangements to be picked up, contact program director, Dr. Grace Tatem, at 318-274-3302.