Center forges friendships for 50+ years

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Robert Friedman

Nan Tripp, who lives in Fulton, has been a member of the Laurel Senior Friendship Club for 25 years, and served as its president from 2001-2011. The organization, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, offers activities and trips near and far for its 468 members.
Photo by Chris Myers

If you are 50-plus, have time on your hands, and are looking to make new friends, take part in more activities, and/or travel (whether to nearby Baltimore, or to faraway Fiji), the Laurel Senior Friendship Club (LSFC) may be just what you need.

The club, which earlier this year celebrated its 50th anniversary, is still going strong, having grown from an idea by its six founding mothers, who yearned to “share the joy of growing old together,” to its current membership of 468.

“We expect to keep growing since we opened our new, state-of-the-art senior activity center [on Contee Road in Laurel],” said LSFC President Ron Mayhugh. “We have room at the center for new members.”

Dues are $15 a year until a member reaches her or his 88th birthday, after which members are given free lifetime membership.

While the club’s activity center is located in Prince George’s County, Laurel itself sits at the border of Howard and Anne Arundel counties. So the club draws members from all those areas, said Mayhugh, 77.

He noted that there has been a recent influx of the “young 50s crowd,” but the club also has three centenarian members.

The club activity that draws the largest membership? The Tuesday evening bingo sessions, when 100 to 120 players usually show up.

A quarter century with the club

Nan Tripp, a resident of Fulton in Howard County, joined the club in 1991, was president from 2001-2011, puts out the club newsletter, and was described by Mayhugh as “the backbone” of the LFSC. She says simply that her quarter of century at the club “has kept me healthy and happy.”

A federal retiree who worked 25 years for the Navy and 12 years at the Federal Drug Administration, the 84-year-old Tripp said she made her principal goal as president to get members for the center.

Named the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activities Center, it opened in 2011 at a cost of $9.5 million. Its official motto in these often trying times: “Think positive.”

Among the activities offered at the center are computer classes, a ceramics workshop, a woodworking shop, a pool room, a fitness center, a “great room” where dinners, meetings and celebratory activities are held, as well as “a beautiful lobby and plenty of space” for card games.

During office hours, a copy machine, computer and telephone are available to members at no charge.

“I’ve made many, many new friends over the years,” said Tripp. “I really enjoy working with other seniors. Our members do not stay at home much. We travel a lot,” she added.

Jean Flannick, 83, certainly took advantage of the club’s travel opportunities, going as far as Fiji, New Zealand and Australia with the club in 1994. An LSFC member since 1988 — she joined with her husband Anthony, who passed away four years ago — Flannick strongly recommends that area retirees join the club because “there just is so much to do: volunteer activities, member meetings, food service, wonderful trips. No rest for the elderly.”

An evolving organization

The LSFC officially began March 3, 1966 when 28 members — whose names can no longer be recalled by current club officials — met at the Laurel Presbyterian Church on Sandy Spring Road. The club went on to get a charter in 1969 from Prince George’s County Division of Services and Programs for the Aging.

Over the years, meetings were held at the former Laurel City Hall, the old Laurel High School, as well as members’ homes, among other places.

 After 10 years of what the club calls a “struggle,” a special committee that was set up to find a new site and raise sufficient funds was successful.

Bernard Buczynski, 81, and wife Carol, 75, joined some 20 years ago. The Anne Arundel County residents had retired — he was a high school administrator — and were “looking for something to do…We found lots of things.”

Through the club, the couple has gone on several cruises, casino trips, treks to Bronson, Mo. (where semi-retired show biz legends put on live shows), and has done volunteer work.

Bernard, who is a member of the club choir, which opens the monthly members’ meetings with song, is now taking computer classes at the center ($15 for a 20-hour class on how to work online with digital photos).

“I’m learning how to crop and scan photos,” he said. “The instructors are wonderful.”

Buczynski added that he was taking the classes, among other reasons, “to keep up with my 16-year-old grandson.”

Another computer class student, Helen Rushing, 87, said the classes “are affordable, and the teachers have the patience of Job.”

To learn more, see the club’s website at https://lsfclaurel.wordpress.com or call (301) 206-3380.