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Senior groups provide chance for fellowship

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By Tom Wilmoth

A group of Bedford County seniors from throughout the county gathered in Goodview earlier this month to honor Lana Obenchain who for the last decade has been helping coordinate activities for them with the county.

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    Obenchain, Bedford County program coordinator with the parks and rec department, will retire at the end of this month. The seniors program on Dec. 3 just happened to occur on the same day Obenchain became a great-grandmother.
    Though she’s retiring from the county, don’t expect Obenchain to slow down. She still plans to lead trips for a travel agency and continue to volunteer with various organizations such as the Boy and Girl Scouts.
    Part of her responsibilities with the county for the past 10 years has been planning activities for seniors, including for the different senior groups that meet at locations across the county. Those include groups in the Chamblissburg-Stewartsville area, Huddleston, Moneta and Montvale. “I do individual trips and trips that are open to anybody,” she said. “It’s a hoot on that bus.”
    Seniors enjoy those opportunities.
    “People are changing what they want to do,” Obenchain said. “They want to go. That’s why the trips are so popular.”
    The number of senior groups in the county has dropped and those attending the recent gathering expressed a desire to see more area residents join them.
    Obenchain has also worked with children’s programs for the county, most recently a Breakfast with Santa event held at the Elks Home prior to the Bedford Christmas parade. The youth fishing clinic has also been a popular event in the summer.
    But the memories that have been made on the trips have been a highlight for Obenchain. “I’ve had several seniors who have met through our program who have gotten married,” she noted.
    Among the events this month for the seniors was a trip to Hotel Roanoke to see the Christmas trees. She said, for some seniors, it provides them with a chance to do something they might not otherwise do.
    Bingo has been a popular event, as well. Obenchain holds three of those events every month at various county locations. “They really enjoy that,” she said, noting that each one also features a pot-luck meal. “It’s just getting out with other folks, to fellowship. They’ve made friends; I’ve made friends. I’m real close to a lot of them. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”
    But she doesn’t plan to be a stranger.
    “I told them I’m a senior now so I can go to their groups,” Obenchain said.
    The senior clubs meet once a month. Some of them do a variety of community service projects. Group meetings also often feature entertainment.
    In addition to working with the county’s senior groups, she leads trips for other groups such as retired Rubatex employees, church groups and the Red Hat Ladies. “There’s a lot of groups in Bedford County that like you to personalize trips for them,” Obenchain said.
    She also enjoys working with sports and athletics. She has a senior softball program with the county and a Silver Notes singing group that performs at various venues.
    Prior to joining the county staff, Obenchain had worked for the city of Bedford’s parks and rec department.
    Obenchain said the activities are designed to keep residents active.
    She said declining participation in the senior groups may just be the fact that folks don’t want to admit they’re seniors. “Seniors anymore are a little more active,” she said. “We try to offer a variety of things.”
    She said residents want the programs to continue. “It’s just something for them to look forward to doing,” Obenchain said. “They look forward to keeping up with each other...and the fellowship.”
    The Dec. 3 event featured officers and members from the various county senior groups. They enjoyed sandwiches and finger foods as well as entertainment from the Sounds of Bluegrass.