By Eyasu Delesa
On the second Wednesday of every month (except July and August), the Local Chapter of the AARP meets to discuss community matters that have a direct impact on their members. AARP, Inc., formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, is the premiere organization where people 50 years of age and up can meet together to further ensure their well-being. Led by Chapter President Sandy Allen, the meetings often vary in their subject matter.
“Each month we have a different guest speaker. This month one of the things that is always on the minds of our seniors is affordability, not only in our housing but in most of the things in their lives today,” Allen said.
The March meeting featured two guest speakers, the Reverend Christine Wiley, of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, and Reverend Joseph Williams, President of DC Chapters of AARP.
Speaking first, Reverend Christine Wiley informed the members that her church was hoping to develop a Senior Housing Unit on its property, one with affordable housing. She said she attended the meeting to consult the AARP members for advice.
The members did not hesitate to share their thoughts. What concerned them the most were the words, ‘affordable housing.’ Several of the members spoke about how the government’s definition of ‘affordable’ was different from their own and how the words ‘affordable housing’ were scary to them. They gave examples of other housing units that were considered affordable but still out of their budget.
The group came to consensus that they would send a letter of support to Reverend Wiley once all the details of the project were divulged. Reverend Wiley was in full support of this motion, reassuring the group that the church wouldn’t take action until all the details were laid out.
Reverend Joseph Williams, President of DC Chapters of AARP, followed Reverend Wiley with remarks. He encouraged members to attend civic, District and community meetings to speak out about their concerns. He encouraged them to become foot soldiers for the cause. He further challenged the group members to reach out to their Council members and stated that they are residents of the “Real DC” and offered a helping hand himself, giving every member of the group his direct cellphone number.
Reverend Williams ended the meeting by telling the group he brought gifts for them. With a bag of goodies in his hand, Williams started to ask the group questions so that he could give out the prizes. His first question; which member of this chapter was the longest resident of Ward 8 and how long was that? ‘86 years,’ one member said and he passed out a hat for a prize. He then asked “How old is the oldest member of this chapter?” and someone answered, “ 99.” Reverend Williams first complimented the woman on her young appearance and then handed her a shirt for a prize.
Chapter President Sandy Allen said she considers these meeting extremely useful. “We had two experts here to talk about senior housing and the growth in the community of Senior citizens. Most people don’t realize that 1 out of 6 people in the District are over 50-years-old, so AARP tries to make sure that they are well educated and services are available to them,” Allen said.
For Ward 8’s AARP Chapter, teamwork, communication and collaboration seem to be their formula for productiveness. The group meets 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ every second Wednesday of each month (except July and August) and welcomes national members to join the Ward 8 chapter.