Van Gogh Painting

Seniors from the Wood River Valley participate in painting Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain as Van Gogh might have painted it. The event is a fundraiser for the Wood River chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Karen Bossick, For the Times-News

HAILEY — It was another rowdy evening at The Senior Connection. Betty Grant and other Connection “members” were dancing to the Beach Boys. Some of the men batted beach balls around the room. Executive Director Teresa Beahen Lipman began leading the group in spelling out the “YMCA” song.

Between games of bingo, Jake Provonsha recalled how his mother went to Beverly Hills High School when a grizzly bear was shot near the school in 1927. Wendy Collins recalled how girls didn’t surf in the California of the 1950s.

It’s a rare moment when nothing’s happening at The Senior Connection in Hailey. When seniors aren’t busy taking part in beach blanket bingo or dolling up for a senior prom organized by high school students, they’re preparing for an overnight trip to Jackpot, a shopping trip to Twin Falls, or taking part in an exercise class or book club.

“They have so much more going on than the senior center I took my father to — and that was in a city,” said Sun Valley resident Joyce Fabre.

Fred Naumann, 91, became part of the “family” after his wife died.

“I come here for the companionship — and Chef Erik’s turkey dinners,” said Naumann, a retired engineer. “He’s quite the chef, whereas my specialty is the microwave.”

Fourteen hundred seniors use The Senior Connection on a yearly basis, making up nearly half of the 3,500 seniors in the valley.

“The people we get are people who want to live life, be part of the community,” Lipman said. “Thanks to donors, we’re able to take a group to see the Met Live in HD opera at the theater. And, of course, we provide Meals on Wheels and help with things like showering and light housekeeping to help seniors stay in their homes.”

Providing so many services is necessary because The Connection is based in a rural area and seniors don’t have the access to resources that they would in Twin Falls, Lipman said.

Fortunately, the community is generous in its support.

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One of the latest donors was Jack Margolis, an elementary school student who presented The Connection with $77.25 on Veterans Day.

“We allow him to do what he wants with a third of his money. But we ask him to put a third of his money into savings and another third in philanthropy,” said his father, Alex Margolis.

The Senior Connection is procuring a new van with a wheelchair lift with the help of the Idaho Department of Transportation and the philanthropic Wood River Women’s Foundation. The $100,000 raised at last month’s Cocktails for a Cause will help build a dignity bathroom where spouses and opposite-sex caretakers can assist a spouse or client.

Right now, of course, The Senior Connection is welcoming Christmas gift donations of hand towels, lotion, bath soap, coloring books and coloring pencils, notecards, stationery, gloves, books, ground coffee and tea. But cash donations are always welcome — $40, for instance, will provide a day for a senior with dementia or Alzheimer’s at The Connection Club.

“Most of our members are living off Social Security. If we were to charge for our services, it would out price accessibility, “Lipman said. “Fortunately, we have a very generous community that takes care of one another.”

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