From To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee to Mr. Wilson yelling at Dennis the Menace, the origin of “You kids get out of my yard!” is much more a mystery than why the elderly are stereotyped as cranky. Truth be told, it’s not so much that they’re cranky. Instead, they’ve reached a point in their lives where they quite eloquently and sometimes bluntly say what they think.
This is why Donna Bebout loves the quote, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Donna is flexible in her job as Senior Coordinator of the LaVergne Senior Citizens Center. Flexibility is a must for someone who has the privilege of working with many different and colorful personalities that converge into a group of delightful elderly people. They say what they want, do whatever comes to mind, and they do it whenever they want. And why not? The more seasoned residents of our community have earned this right because their walk through history and first-hand life experiences eclipse the rest of what the rest of us think we know.
Three years ago Donna left her position in the LaVergne Public Library where she specialized in the children’s literature section, served as assistant director, and then director. She left because she enjoyed hands-on work offered at the Senior Center more than administrative tasks, but Donna remains involved in the library as chairman of the Library Board.
Although Donna doesn’t live in LaVergne (she is a lifelong resident of Murfreesboro), she gives back to our community every day. Her position is both the most rewarding and emotionally draining job she has had and the friendships formed with the senior residents are so strong that they often feel like family.
“The seniors embrace me as a daughter and they become a surrogate mother and father or big brother and big sister to me,” Donna said. “We are just one big family here.”
When families lose a loved one, the heartbreak can be devastating. Like traditional families, the Senior Center recently had to cope with the loss of a favorite member. John had visited the center for about six years, but slowly began slipping away because of Alzheimer’s disease. This highly educated man continued his visits at the Center almost until the end and Donna loved seeing flickers of the true John come through despite the disease.
John was special both for his keen intelligence, but also because he was the very first King of the Senior Prom. The third annual prom is scheduled this Saturday, May 8th from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. “A Star is Born” is being held in the Multipurpose Building behind City Hall. It’s free, but tickets are required. It is open to anyone 60 and up, but to participate you must be a member of the Senior Center or come as a guest of a member. Like the prom, membership in the Center is also free. To join, stop by the Center on Stones River Road between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday.
Donna hopes all the senior residents of the LaVergne community will attend the prom. She encourages everyone to pick up their tickets by Friday so she, her three part-time workers Yolanda, Nancy & Dennis, and other volunteers will know how many to plan for.
The Senior Center offers more than just an annual dance, though. Other activities include educational speakers, bingo, card games, board games, internet accessible computers, computer class, and local trips to places like to Bell Buckle, the Nashville Farmers Market, the outlets stores of Crossville, and more.
Once a quarter, the seniors venture on a bigger excursion when they load up a Grayline tour bus and head to Harrah’s in Metropolis. About 35 to 40 participants go on this 12-hour round trip and pay $5 per person. Upon arrival they get a $5 voucher, a free buffet, and a day of fun.
When Donna isn’t spending time at the LaVergne Senior Citizens Center, she enjoys her two daughters, 3-year old granddaughter, and 1-year old grandson. In addition, she is a newlywed after having married her best friend Don last year.
Donna said she hadn’t planned on remarrying, but on a fun night out with the girls, she and Don saw each other and said hello. After that, he asked her to dance. They danced fast, and then they slow danced. Donna said they’ve danced together ever since.
Like her own friendship with Don, Donna hopes to find ways to engage volunteers with the senior community so even more friendships can be formed. She has encountered people who feel fearful of the elderly, but when they start talking with them they realize a senior citizen is simply someone with a few more wrinkles and a few more life experiences. However, seniors welcome the chance to talk with new people and enjoy sharing their knowledge. If, for example, someone wants to learn to knit or crochet, Donna will pair them with someone having these skills. It doesn’t take long for fast friendships to form, and everyone benefits.
For LaVergne, Donna wants to continue seeing the sense of community grow stronger. She hopes the seniors can participate in events throughout the area and especially wants to see more intergenerational activities. For example, earlier this year senior citizens helped at LaVergne Lake Elementary School as tutors. When an adult was needed to help with reading or math, the elderly stepped up and helped many students who needed the one-on-one contact to learn.
If you want to become a member of or to volunteer at the LaVergne Senior Citizen Center, Donna is just a phone call away.
LaVergne Senior Citizens Center
337 Stones River Road