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Man hopes to revive local AARP chapter

Thursday, October 28, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:14 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mack Brushwood believes there is strength in numbers.

So he hopes to be greeted today by a crowd of eager retirees ready to revive the Columbia chapter of AARP that fizzled out about five years ago.

“I have been getting phone calls again from people interested (in) starting the chapter,” said Brushwood, who has been involved in AARP, a national senior advocacy group, since 1983. “But, we need at least 20 members to get it started.”

The 86-year-old retiree, a Columbia native, was local chapter president from 1987-88. He said Columbia needs the advocacy group to inform and connect residents who are 50 years or older.

“There is a great number of elderly that need information on things like health and politics,” said Brushwood, who volunteered for 16 years with an AARP income tax preparation program.

“This is an opportunity to talk about living conditions from rent to landlords. In many cases, by getting together, they can solve some of the problems they have.”

Brushwood said he is proud to be a part of what bills itself as the largest organization in the world, with over 35 million members across the globe. He said it is well worth the yearly $12.50 membership fee, which includes two different monthly magazines along with discounts on insurance and travel expenses.

“After one night stay at a motel, I saved more than I had spent on my membership,” Brushwood said.

Discounts and social activities are not the only attraction to the group. Communities often benefit from the volunteer services the group provides, said Marge Capp, an AARP state coordinator for Missouri. Among those efforts are school supply collection drives for needy children and volunteer shifts at food pantries.

“There are so many ways we help the community, I cannot even think of all of them,” said Capp, 69, a Hannibal resident.

Jean Leonatti, executive director of the Central Missouri Agency on Aging, said AARP brings many more volunteers into the local community.

“Chapters in other communities provide a number of volunteers to work in that community,” she said. “That is a tremendous asset.”

Both Brushwood and Capp hope Columbia can again benefit from AARP’s work. Capp recalls the Columbia chapter having an estimated 100 members as recently as five years ago, but still had difficulty recruiting officers. Brushwood said they lost many elderly members to death during that period, and had trouble recruiting new members.

“It is tough to get chapter membership nowadays,” Brushwood said. “Things like the cost of gas and overtime makes money and time tight for families.”

The challenge now is to get those members who are ready to fight for seniors’ interests, said Brushwood.

“One person can not go before the legislator and get a bill passed,” Brushwood said. “Like I said before, there is strength in numbers.”

The AARP meeting takes place at 9:30 a.m. today at Boone County Oakland Plaza Senior Center at 1301 Vandiver Drive on the north side of the shopping center.


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