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Southern Crescent seniors enjoy local dance club

By Maria José Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

As The Country Gentlemen Band played an upbeat tune, Janice and Wayne Evans, a newlywed couple, were the first to hit the dance floor on a recent Friday evening at the Jim Huie Recreation Center.

"There is life after 60," Janice Evans proclaimed.

It wasn't long before the dance floor was full of seniors, members of the Brookdale Dine and Dance Club, dancing to a country-western love song after finishing dinner.

The club is for seniors 55 years of age and older, and meets every Friday at the Jim Huie Center, located at 9045 Tara Blvd., in Jonesboro. The club has been meeting at the center since September 2007.

Seniors who wish to dine, at 6 p.m., must bring a plate of food. At a cost of $5, seniors are able to dance to a live band beginning at 6:45 p.m.

Participants come from Clayton, Henry, Fayette, Spalding and Coweta counties.

"This is a great place to interact with others and enjoy friends," said 64-year-old Rex resident, Siromi Binkley.

Don Woodard, treasurer of the Brookdale Dine and Dance Club, said he joined in order to meet people and "get out of the house."

"I came and fell in love with everybody here," he said.

Because the women in the club outnumber the men, ladies sometimes have to wait their turn for a dance partner.

"We need more men here that can dance at night," said Louise Brown, a resident of Newnan.

"And good-looking men too," joked Jonesboro resident, Ann Elsner.

Shirley Crawley, who is in charges of promoting the club, said it has approximately 70 members, but there are an estimated 20 to 35 members who meet weekly. The average age of members is 75, she said, and the oldest member is 95. Members would like to see younger seniors join the club, so they can keep the tradition going, she said.

According to club officials, Brookdale was launched in 1973 as the Brookdale Singles Club. Then, members met at the Veterans of Foreign Wars location in East Point, and moved on to meet at Brookdale Park, also in East Point. Though it began as a singles-only club, members began to pair up over time and the club changed its name.

"We started out as a singles group ... and now 40 percent of them are married, or dating," said Crawley.

"There has been at least eight marriages from these folks, over 20 years," said Stew Magee, a musician who plays for the group. "I really admire a lot of these people ... they [show] you how to live."

The club provides a form of exercise, and a place where older people can interact and maintain a social lifestyle, said Crawley.

"They [members] know everybody," said Deloris Schaffer, president of the Brookdale Dine and Dance Club. "We meet and get to see each other, and it's a good place to go. Seniors sometimes don't have a lot of places to go."

Crawley said the Brookdale Dine and Dance Club will celebrate two years at the Jim Huie Recreation Center on Sept. 11, at 6 p.m.