Photo by Curt Yeomans
Forest Park residents, Janice Wayte’s and Wayne Evans’ first date was four years ago, at a meeting of the Brookdale Dine and Dance Club. The pair, who got married two years ago, have been coming to the club every week since then to dance.
Forest Park dance instructor Wayne Evans’ first trip to the weekly Brookdale Dine and Dance Club meetings was four years ago, on his first date with his future wife, Janice Wayte.
She was a student in one of his dance classes, and they both liked to dance, so she asked him if he would like to attend a meeting of the club, where senior citizens participate in pot luck dinners and dance the night away.
A band was playing country western music for the club that night, the dance teacher recalled. Evans said he liked the club so much that he kept coming back every week, and “we’ve [he and Wayte] have been together ever since.”
They got married two years ago, and now, spend every Friday night at the club, dancing together.
“This is our Friday night date,” Wayte said. “We get to eat, enjoy the fellowship and dance.”
The Brookdale Dine and Dance Club meets every Friday evening, from 6 p.m., to 8:45 p.m., at the Jim Huie Recreation Center, located at 9045 Tara Boulevard, in Jonesboro. It is for people over the age of 55, and it draws an average crowd of approximately 20 people a week from across the Southern Crescent, said Deloris Schaffer, 79, the club’s president.
“It’s a get-together for seniors,” Schaffer said. “It gives them a place to go, and it’s smoke free. It’s just a good place for seniors to be.”
Each member who attends a meeting brings a covered-dish meal to share with other members, and they pay $5 per person on nights when a live band is performing, to cover the costs associated with bringing the band in to play music, while the members dance.
“They dance, they talk, they socialize,” said Shacole Pearman, the program coordinator for the Jim Huie Recreation Center. “They are all really friendly, and it provides a really cool environment for seniors.”
Fayetteville resident, Maydell Fersh, said she likes the fact that the dancing gives members a chance to get up on their feet and be active. The members get up for each song, and most of them change dance partners for each twirl around the dance floor.
“It provides a lot of recreation,” Fersh said. “It’s not only exercise, but fellowship as well ... I’ve got a lot of friends here.”
The group actually predates the 6-year-old recreation center that it meets in. No one currently in the club is exactly sure how old the group actually is, although some members said it has been around for at least two decades. It previously met at the former Shelnutt Senior Center, in Jonesboro, and at the now-closed Brookdale Recreation Center, in East Point, according to long-time members.
“It used to be a singles club for seniors, but then we opened it up, and began allowing couples to start attending meetings as well,” said Stockbridge resident, Jeanette Serbin, who has been attending meetings since the mid-1990s. “It’s always been a club where you could find support if you needed it ... The people here always care about each other. It’s just an extended family.”
And, even though it is frequently the same group of people attending meetings each week, Fersh said they are by no means exclusive.
“We’re always open to visitors,” she said. “We’re be glad to have them, if they showed up.”