ROCKINGHAM — Millie Wright started the local chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons in 2003 — but with the numbers dropping due to illness and deaths, she’s wanting to bring awareness back to a helping group.
“I had started out with 25 members — and that’s what I needed — and we grew a little bit, but not too much,” said Wright. “After a few years, my members started passing away. We got down to about 10 active members. That was due to aging and health reasons. We try to bring a little awareness every year through Hoptoberfest and the senior Christmas party, and then we do a major fundraiser that consists of a dinner and fashion show every year.”
Wright said the proceeds from their fundraisers go to benefit groups such as the American Red Cross and local nursing homes through donated supplies and monetary gifts.
“Because of the deceased members growing more and more, there’s not really a whole lot that we can get out there and do. But we want to bring a little awareness,” she said. “A lot of folks said they don’t know we had a local chapter. We’re here and we’ve been here.”
As ownership of the Richmond County Daily Journal starting changing hands repeatedly over the years, Wright said AARP stopped advertising in the paper, but she hopes membership will start increasing soon regardless.
“We had some increase in membership last year and we’re hoping that that’s a sign that people are taking a little more interest in what’s going on in Richmond County,” she said.
Up to 16 members currently, Wright is hoping to at least get the group’s number back up to the original 25 it started with in order to be able to help the community more.
“Instead of people asking us what do we do, join us and give us your ideas in what you’d like to see in Richmond County,” Wright said. “I get a lot of people asking what do y’all do. To join the local chapter, they have to join the national.”
Interested future members are required to be age 50 and up, but Wright said AARP will begin sending materials to people around 48 or 49. And although the current group is predominately African-American, she added that all races, colors and creeds are welcome.
“It’s not just geared towards one race. It’s a joint thing,” she said. “Like anything else, you have to have a joint effort to grow. I would like to see a mixture because it’s good to share ideas. There are blessings in sharing.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.