You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.
Baldwin Park resident Dianne Schirtzinger is making sure community members over the age of 50 in the neighborhood have a place to call their own.
Schirtzinger serves as the leader of the Baldwin Park Nifty Fifties, a social group for couples or singles that only requires its members to be older than 50 and live in the area.
The group dates back almost 20 years, when the original founders hosted the first meeting.
Schirtzinger and her husband, Jim, recently moved to the area from Columbus, Ohio, and were looking to meet more people, as well as get involved in the community.
“I attended the first meeting to see if others were interested in a group like this in 2004,” Schirtzinger says. “My husband and I have been members ever since. I think it can be difficult to meet neighbors, especially when you don’t have children in school or a dog to walk.”
FORMING NEW BONDS
If she weren’t living in Baldwin Park, Schirtzinger doesn’t think she would have stayed in Orlando.
“There is such a sense of community here,” she says. “They host all kinds of events that you can pick and choose from, and it’s nice to feel like you’re a part of something.”
When the founders of Nifty Fifties, also known as N50s, moved away in 2009, Schirtzinger assumed the responsibility to keep the group going.
The group has grown from a dozen members to about 60.
“You do get to know people, and it’s in a way that doesn’t seem awkward at all,” she says. “I think most people would feel hesitant about just walking up to someone they don’t know and starting a conversation, but this provides some context. You know everyone is kind of at the same stage in life. It’s been a fun way to meet neighbors, make some friends and support our great community.”
The group has minimal dues that fund three parties a year, held in the spring, fall and early December. Some of the parties are held at community facilities, while others are held in members’ homes.
At the holiday party, the group collects money to get angel tree requests for Baldwin Park Elementary School kindergarten students in need.
Schirtzinger used to volunteer at BPE and says she was surprised to learn of the many people in need at the school.
“Around the holidays, people like to be generous,” she says. “If you live in this community, you’ve been pretty fortunate in your life, and you can help people.”
The N50s also host a few monthly gatherings, such as a ladies coffee on the first Thursday of the month and a happy hour on the third Thursday of the month.
In addition, some ladies luncheons are hosted during the year, and other events occasionally pop up.
N50s member Lauren Luisi moved to Baldwin Park from New Jersey about three years ago and says she read about the group in the community’s newsletter.
“I wanted to meet other women in the area,” she says. “(The greatest benefit has been) meeting people and making friends, which can sometimes be difficult at our age.”
N50s member Ellen Alcarez, from Connecticut, moved to Baldwin Park a little over a year ago. She says she knew no one at the time.
“It’s a little scary at first to just walk into a group of people you’ve never met before, but everyone has been so welcoming,” Alcarez says. “Now, we have a base.”
The ladies say their husbands or partners also like the group and will join them for some of the events.