For a little more than a year, between 30 and 50 seniors have been gathering on Tuesdays at the Mansfield Community Center. They are the Super Seniors and they get together every Tuesday to play games and and eat lunch.
Not bad for a group that started with 12 seniors a year ago.
“We’ve all become very close as a community,” said David NaDell, one of the founders of the group. “We all love one another, and we all do everything together. We’ve all become very close as a community.”
A disabled veteran, the Michigan native moved with his wife, Renay, to Mansfield 16 years ago to be closer to family. Last year, he said, the couple had been asked to go to a meeting at city hall. They talked with their daughter, Jeana Hyde, City Administrator, and Mansfield Mayor Jeff Riley about starting a senior program.
“The call was because there were so many citizens in the community that were struggling,” David NaDell said. “Everybody needs help at one time or another. Mainly, most of us are on a fixed income. It’s nice to have a dinner fixed during the week.
“All of us need [this], even if it’s just for communication and companionship,” David NaDell said. “We talk about everything — our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren.”
“It gets our seniors out and keeps their minds active,” Renay NaDell said. “This is the time you get lonely because your kids are busy and they’re trying to live their life. It helps with that, keeps us young at heart.”
“Renay and I mainly took over,” he said. “We’ve loved it ever since.”
Tuesdays were selected for meeting days because, David NaDell said, it was the one day everyone could get together. “The community center is rented out a lot of the time during the week.”
While the NaDells arrive early, around 8:30 a.m., to set up, the group doesn’t begin to gather until 10 a.m. Renay and a handful of other women begin preparing lunch for the group.
“These Southern women know how to cook,” Renay NaDell said.
The first thing on the schedule, after announcements and prayers, is Bingo. Each person receives five cards when they enter. The caller, using a full deck, begins turning over cards and calling out the suit and number. People who have that suit and number turn their card over. When all five cards are face down, the player can yell, “Bingo!”
There are small prizes, some made by the seniors, some donated, some purchased, that are awarded winners. “We do take donations,” David NaDell said. “There’s no money that passes through here at all.”
Some Tuesdays, a nurse visits and shows people how to take blood pressure. Other Tuesdays, a woman leads “chair” exercises with the group.
There’s also a food ministry, and seniors can pick up bags containing a couple of meals home. Some local vendors, include Mamie’s Kitchen on Highway 278 donate supplies like bowls and cups. The nearby Masonic Lodge offered food bags.
Ranging in age from 50 to 89, some of the Super Seniors are from Mansfield, some are from other parts of Newton County and still others are from neighboring counties.
Ronnie Sandberg, a native of New York, said she and her husband started coming because “it was very hard to meet people in this town. When they started the senior center, I came over to see what it was like. There isn’t one person we didn’t like.”
The couple, she said, had been in Mansfield for five of the 22 years they’ve lived in Georgia. “Everyone is very generous with their time. Everyone brings presents. We’re all equal.”
Anne White, 80, comes because she enjoys the fellowship. “I’ve tried to get to know everyone.”
Willie Belcher, 73, nicknamed “Doc,” attends Mt. Zion African-Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Mansfield. He learned about the Super Seniors through the bulletin. The Covington resident, who was born and raised in Mansfield, said he began coming to the Tuesday gatherings about three weeks after Super Seniors started. “I’ve been coming ever since. “It’s fun.”
A widower since 2007, Belcher said he has been battling cancer on and off for 20 years. Attending Super Seniors offers relief, enjoyment and healing. I feel good after I come down here,” he said. “If I miss it, I don’t feel good. It has the fine love of God in this place. We love each other.
“If people want to come, they will be welcomed,” he said.
Belcher travels to Mansfield with his neighbor, Margaret Smith, another member of Mt. Zion AME Church. A retired teacher, Smith said, “I felt it was a great thing to come down and participate with the people down here. I love it. I come every week.
“It is a great place to come to communicate with people,” she said. “I invite everyone to come out and sit down, and to learn more about the people.”
Like many of the other members of Super Seniors, Myrtle Beasley saw the announcement about the gathering at church. “I thought it would be fun,” she said. “It’s just grown.”
Beasley said she usually calls someone who hasn’t come for a couple of weeks “to see how they’re doing and report back.
“When you walk through the door, there’s no black, no white; no Methodist, no Baptist,” she said.