Marian Herzer always knew her idea of senior volunteers entertaining other seniors was a good one.
She founded Project Joy in 1972.
Twenty-five years later, the organization is planning a birthday celebration Wednesday at Comstock Park on the South Hill.
“I had a tremendous expectation it would last a long time,” said Herzer. Today, nearly 300 volunteers, with an average age of 73, are performing in more than 30 artistic groups.
They will make some 500 appearances this year, singing, playing and dancing at retirement centers, nursing homes, hospitals and other gathering places.
“It was an idea that worked 25 years ago that works today,” Herzer said.
At the time, Herzer was co-director of the Sinto Senior Center. She started a women’s chorus and was amazed at how much enthusiasm the group generated.
The chorus started performing locally, and eventually the idea evolved into the communitywide Project Joy.
Spokane’s Parks and Recreation Department and the state office on aging embraced the concept, and within a year, grant money and donations came rolling in.
Project Joy became incorporated as a nonprofit organization and operated on its own for a number of years. Now, it operates out of the South Hill Senior Center at 2727 S. Mount Vernon, with support from the city Parks Department. Performers, however, come from throughout the Spokane area, including the Valley.
The camaraderie of being involved socially and the joy of helping someone else are cornerstones of the program, its leaders say.
Studies show that seniors who stay active and in touch with others have healthier, happier lives, Herzer said.
“It’s the most exhilarating experience,” said Peggy Rudolph, who plays string bass for the orchestra.
“Not only is the music fun, but it’s also the spirit that’s ever present with the group,” said Rudolph, a retired educator and Spokane Valley resident.
She said she’s played bass since she was 7 years old.
“It’s all for pure enjoyment. It’s music at its highest form. Music is a special thing in people’s lives,” Rudolph said.
In 1975, the National Council on Aging selected Project Joy as one of the most outstanding seniors programs in the country.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ANNIVERSARY FUN Project Joy’s 25th anniversary celebration will run from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday near the Comstock Park bandshell, which is going to be left up after the symphony’s Labor Day performance. The public is invited to attend the event, which will feature a birthday cake and performances by several of the entertainment groups, including the senior orchestra, a men’s quartet, cloggers and a brass quintet. Anyone interested in joining the volunteer group should call the Project Joy office at 535-0584.
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