In celebration of the group’s 20th birthday, St. John AARP Chapter members received gift bags filled with a calendar by local artist Elaine Estern. reusable shopping bags and more.
While the St. John Chapter of AARP, chapter number 4777, actually started 21 years ago, it wasn’t made official until 1993, and even then it was a struggle, explained the group’s first president Kortwright Worrell.
“I became a member of AARP in 1991 and started a chapter here in 1992, but it wasn’t chartered until 1993,” said Worrell. “I started it because I thought we needed a chapter over here, but St. Thomas fought us on it. It took someone from AARP to come down and investigate before we got chartered.”
On Thursday evening, December 19, about 25 members of AARP of the Virgin Islands’ St. John Chapter gathered at the Nazareth Lutheran Church Hall in Cruz Bay to celebrate 20 years of the group’s community service and activities.
“We are not he largest chapter, but we are the most active chapter in the Virgin Islands,” said President Beverly Biziewski. “Other chapters are bigger, but not many of their members go to meetings.”
AARP of the Virgin Islands State Office Services Specialist Sherilyn Pogson, who attended last week’s celebration, thanked the members for continuing to keep the St. John Chapter vibrant.
“I want to thank all of you for coming out tonight,” said Pogson. “This St. John Chapter being here for 20 years is a great milestone. The fact that this chapter continues to stick it out with us is greatly appreciated.”
While the St. John AARP Chapter might not have the highest number of members, the group makes up for that in many ways, Pogson explained.
“You are one of the smallest chapters, but you make up for that with your community engagement and you activities,” she said. “That is what sets you apart. You make sure you get out there with the community.”
“Keep up your great work and let’s keep this going for another 20 years,” said Pogson.
One of the group’s annual activities is its Day of Service, which for the past few years has entailed hosting a BBQ party for wounded veterans. The St. John Chapter of AARP of the Virgin Islands also ensures that its members are aware of the changing medical insurance requirements, explained past president Madeline Sewer.
“Several years back we had a conference and people got information about health insurance and banking and we invited a lot of other groups to come out with information,” said Sewer. “Community outreach and sharing information is important.”
While the chapter does provide important resources for its members, laughter can often be heard echoing from the group’s monthly Cruz Bay meetings as well.
“I come out to meetings because people in my church are here and it’s a nice fellowship,” said member Joan Bermingham. “We tell some wonderful stories and have some laughs.”
“I really like the people in this group,” said Biziewski.
AARP’s message of dignity for aging people is why Sally Browne, an Executive Council volunteer for health with AARP, takes such an active role in the organization, she explained.
“I stay active with AARP because I like what they stand for, which is dignity for people over 50,” said Browne. “What AARP does actually benefits the entire community.”
To mark 20 years, St. John Chapter of the AARP of the Virgin Islands members enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Fish Trap and received gift bags which included Elaine Estern’s 2014 calendar, donated by the artist.