Our Community-Building Branch has two purposes:
- Connecting interested elders seeking to join us with opportunities of engagement with other like-minded, active elders in regional or local teams (via ‘elder circles’ or ‘cause chapters’); and
- Developing partnerships with other elder service organizations that complement our interests and our mission. These are in addition to the educational partnerships presented in the Education Branch.
Elder Circles and Cause Chapters
Our objective is to build and support a network of local or regional elder circles and single cause-related chapters across North America so that we manifest "think globally and act locally" relative to our mission. The Community Building Branch provides the encouragement and specific resources required for such local or regional groups to be sustained and fulfilled. Each circle or chapter facilitates mutual support while acting locally on issues relevant to social, economic, and environmental justice.
The purpose of an Elder Circle is to inspire and encourage participant elders to continue to live life fully, to continue to be active, contributing members to the welfare of their community, and to give back, be it local or global. An Elder Circle can be as large or small as the participants wish as well as determine the full nature and focus of their group. It is helpful that the members live in close proximity for convenience in meeting, although meeting virtually via the internet works well, too.
Circle meetings could include meal sharing. Meeting in a home is more intimate and personal, but also limits the number of participants. To allow time for sharing and hearing from everyone, a group of no more than 12 or 14 is suggested. Potluck meals make it easier for the host who may provide one main dish or just the responsibility of hosting while others bring dishes to share.
An ideal way to begin is to share personal stories. If the group plans to eat together, having one person tell his or her narrative at the conclusion of the meal works well. Allow for plenty of time and practice good listening, not interrupting during the sharing. Once the person has concluded, perhaps the others might ask thoughtful questions seeking more details or clarification about an aspect of the story.
Circle members will begin to acquaint more deeply, including their passions and what gives them meaning. Each will bond and look forward to getting together. A Circle meeting could begin by checking in with a brief sharing about what has been occurring since last together. It is good to remind the group to be thoughtful of time, allowing for each person to share. Sharing time is a discipline and takes practice.
As people learn more about each other, there will be opportunities to join together to support a specific activity or event. Each Circle can periodically determine the main goals of the group, working together on a community need or special social or environmental project.
It will be important to share the facilitation of the group and to determine agreements that will help the group function well. These agreements are as simple as setting dates and times to meet, where to meet, the meeting format, and how to maintain respectful dialogue and listening. Developing the relationships and mutual respect is important.
And finally, each elder should be clear about and state what he or she would:
- Like the Elder Circle to be;
- Like to contribute; and
- Hope to get from participating.
If you are interested in forming or joining an Elder Circle in your area, please contact Karen Fine.
A Cause Chapter is similar to an Elder Circle except that it is focused on chapter members addressing a single social or ecological cause. At this time we are building a network of regional “climate action” Chapters. Future interest in focus on other specific causes will spawn additional chapters. For discussion sake, the following describes our climate action chapters.
Climate action chapters address regional issues related to attenuating the threat of global warming/climate change as well as to support the work of our national Elders Climate Action (ECA) group at the state, regional, or local level. ECA’s national organization includes:
- Engagement Committee to support initiation of new chapters; and
- Chapter Council, where representatives from each on-going chapter meet monthly to provide mutual support and suggestions of how to engage more elders in climate-related.
If you are interested in forming or joining an ECA Chapter in your state or region, please contact Grady McGonagill.
Current Elder Circles and ECA Chapters
We list the following on-going elder circles and ECA chapters with their membership contact person. Please contact this person by clicking on the link that will address an email to them if you wish to explore joining the circle or chapter or learning from their experiences.
- Half Moon Bay – Redwood City – San Mateo, California: Nancy Margulies
- Denver, CO: Jackie Bursen
- Arizona: Hazel Chapman
- Northern California: Marilyn Price
- Maryland: Leslie Wharton (ask her about this and the No. VA chapter – it may not exist yet)
- Massachusetts: Grady McGonagill
- Southeast Michigan: Nancy Ogilive
- Northern Virginia: David Mog
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Our Community Building partners include those that support our efforts for network building, advocating environmental stewardship, and representing sustainable living.
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