SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 21, 2013

Seniors Club succumbs to changing times

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — When the Beverly Senior Citizens Club held its regular meeting a few weeks after president Peter Nuccio passed away last year, the main item on the agenda was choosing a new president.

But when members went around the room looking for volunteers, Bill Coughlin recalled, “No hands came up.”

Facing an aging membership and changing times, the Beverly Senior Citizens Club has voted to disband. The decision marks the end of an organization that formed more than 50 years ago and once boasted nearly 300 members.

Coughlin, a longtime member with his wife, Marguerite, said most of the remaining 25 members are in their 80s. They tried to recruit younger members — the minimum age to join is 60 — but found no takers.

“We refer to ourselves as members of the Greatest Generation, and there’s nobody coming behind us,” Coughlin said. “It’s just that people have other things to do. We meet at 2 p.m. during the day.”

In some ways, the Senior Citizens Club outlived its usefulness. It was formed in the 1950s as a social club for seniors in the days before the city had a Senior Center.

Rose Nuccio, Peter Nuccio’s wife, said the group would organize trips around New England that would sell out almost as soon as they were announced.

“Sometimes we’d need two buses,” she said.

The club remained active even after the Senior Center on Colon Street opened in 1992, holding private quilting and exercise classes in the building.

MaryAnn Holak, executive director of the Beverly Council on Aging, said the need for a private group became less important once the Senior Center began offering programs that were open to all seniors.

“I have mixed feelings, because you want to respect what they established, but you also want to say that in this world, the Senior Center has done a great job of meeting all the needs of seniors,” Holak said.

“As sad as it is to say it’s the end of an era, it’s also the beginning of a new era where the Senior Center is open to everyone, and there isn’t a private group meeting here anymore.”

At the same time, Holak praised the Senior Citizens Club members for maintaining a long-standing tradition.

“Members of that club are just awesome,” she said. “Kudos to them for keeping it going, for really putting energy into remembering its roots.”

In some ways, the Senior Citizens Club’s demise mirrored the end of the Friends of the Council on Aging, another private group that formed to help with the opening of the Senior Center. The Friends raised money to support Senior Center operations in the early years and even had a hand in the hiring and firing of the executive director.

But as the city began more fully funding the Senior Center’s annual budget — it’s now about $560,000 — the need for a private fundraising group diminished. The Friends disbanded four years ago.

The Friends transferred the license to run bingo games to the Senior Citizens Club, but dwindling attendance led to the end of bingo in January.

Coughlin said the Senior Citizens Club has about $27,000 left in its treasury and hopes the money can be used to continue funding scholarships for Beverly High School seniors, as the club has done for years.

“We had a wonderful run,” Coughlin said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.