AARP 50 years

Photo by LEIGH PROM

An open house to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Franklin County AARP Chapter 508 was held recently and included Priscilla Casey (from left), president of SW Roanoke AARP chapter; Ben Crawford, Virginia AARP Advocacy team; JoAnn Young, president; Linda Coger, secretary; Judy La Fon, treasurer; and Anita Haksch, vice president.

^pBy LEIGH PROM

Approximately 25 members and guests attended an open house at the Franklin County Public Library in Rocky Mount on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Franklin County AARP Chapter 508.

The festive gathering, which included refreshments, provided an opportunity to let the community know about the chapter’s existence. Priscilla Casey, president of the SW Roanoke AARP chapter, said AARP has many members, but most are by card only. They don’t know about the local chapters.

Pamela Skilton has been an AARP member for nearly 30 years. She initially joined for the safe driving program and, just this year, joined the local chapter.

“We need exposure,” Skilton said. “I had no idea about this group.”

AARP’s motto is: “To serve, not to be served,” which fit with the afternoon’s program speakers. Ben Crawford of Blacksburg has been an AARP member for 25 years. He serves on the Virginia AARP Advocacy Team and has previously served as an executive council member and chapter president. He said a few of the ways AARP serves are through its driver safety and tax preparation programs, as well as helping veterans.

JoAnn Young, president of the Franklin County chapter since 2011, said her chapter has served the community by making donations to other agencies, taking Christmas cards to the VA Center, conducting a food drive at a local grocery store and donating school supplies to Lee M. Waid Elementary School.

Crawford’s remarks also included some history about AARP. The organization was founded in 1958 by retired high school principal Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, and had its roots in the National Retired Teacher Association, which Andrus started in 1947. In seeing how retired teachers were able to get access to health insurance, the public saw a need for older people to also be able to have health insurance.

Crawford also spoke about how one person can make a difference and how by working together the organization can have a large collective voice. “Working together works,” he said, while also stressing the importance of “doing good.”

AARP originally was called American Association of Retired Persons, according to AARP’s website. In 1999 the group officially changed its name to reflect that members continue to work full or part time.

Franklin County’s AARP chapter meets September through May on the second Wednesday of each month at the Essig Recreation Center, Young said. The program starts at 11 a.m., followed by a potluck lunch at noon.

For more information, call 365-7151.

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