By Cindy Solomon

Members of Gordon Memorial UMC's Best Year Club stay active with a chair exercise program.

Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, received a $8,000 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, a non-profit corporation and extension ministry of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church. Money from the grant is used to supplement programming, meals, transportation, and everyday necessities to senior adults attending the church’s weekly Best Years Club.

Actively ministering to retirees and senior adults for more than a decade, Gordon Memorial received its first Golden Cross Foundation grant in 2015 to help fund the Best Years Club. “Members of our Community Cares Ministry team became aware that many older adults within the congregation and surrounding community had limited mobility or access to transportation,” said Gordon Memorial member Angella Current-Felder. “As a result, many of these people were not receiving nutritious meals, participating in social and physical activities, nor being nurtured spiritually.”

Grant money, then and now, is used to provide Best Years Club participants—who range in age from 70 to 90—with hot meals and take-home boxed lunches, instructor-led physical activity, and workshops on senior health-related topics led by Meharry Medical College instructors. Socialization games, such as Bingo, enable participants to win prizes consisting of household items such as hand soap, paper towels, tissue, and toilet paper. Transportation for quarterly field trips—such as visiting the Christmas Lights at Opryland or dinner at a favorite restaurant—is underwritten by grant money as well.

“The opportunity to gather weekly for social activity, exercise, and Bible study has enhanced the quality of life for participants and volunteers alike,” said Best Years Club coordinator Marie Dunkerson. “A review of participants’ evaluation forms confirms this program enables senior adults to get out of their house or building at least once a week. When asked if the program has improved over the past four years, participants unanimously say ‘Yes’.”

With attendance averaging around 60 participants per week—and often swelling to 100 during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter—future hopes and dreams for the ministry include a larger van or bus accommodating 25 passengers. “The Best Years Club relies on grants and donations to operate,” Dunkerson said, “and we are grateful for the Golden Cross Foundation’s grant. God has used this ministry to inspire and affirm all who participate in the program. It enables persons to feel they have a purpose for living.”