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Looking for company

Last AARP chapter in Vermont hopes to set example for other towns in state

BRATTLEBORO—Brattleboro AARP Chapter 763 has a unique distinction. It is the only active chapter in Vermont of the organization once known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

The chapter meets on the third Tuesday of each month, except for January and July, at the Brattleboro Senior Center at the Gibson-Aiken Center on Main Street.

For those who think of AARP as a distant organization that sends you a membership card at age 50 and pitches health insurance and discounts for seniors, think of Chapter 763 as AARP’s hometown connection.

“This is the grassroots,” said Jean Garrecht, Chapter 763’s secretary.

It isn’t mentioned in AARP’s mailings, but the organization has local chapters around the country. They are usually guided by AARP policies, but act independently of the national organization.

Garrecht said the chapter does many service projects around Brattleboro.

Chapter members aren’t required to be volunteers, but members often serve as the people behind such popular programs as AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, the Tax-Aide program, driver safety workshops, and general education and advocacy regarding issues that affect older Americans.

Mary Laitres, a past president of Chapter 763, said it was formed in the 1970s and currently has about 100 members. She credits another past president, Shirley Hathaway, for keeping the organization alive in the 2000s by pushing to increase membership.

“It was her love and it was her life,” Laitres said.

Garrecht said they work to come up with interesting topics for each month’s meeting, but the presentations are secondary to what she, Laitres, and chapter member chair Barbara Spencer say is the most important part of the monthly get-togethers — the socializing.

“Not as many people seem to be joining groups as they used to,” Laitres said. “There’s too much email and Facebook and not enough personal interaction.”

”Getting together regularly is good for everyone,” Garrecht said.

The state AARP office has noticed how active the Brattleboro chapter has been, Garrecht said, and has consulted with them to help try to revive a dormant AARP chapter in Burlington.

“Having a local chapter makes AARP real for people, and that’s why the state and national offices are trying to revive them,” she said.

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Tamara Stenn
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Tamara Stenn (Brattleboro, Vermont, US) says...

Thanks for writing this Elayne. I was thinking the same thing myself. The silence we received from the hospital is quite deafening. Unfortunately we\'ve had to continue working with the hospital as other (minor) heath issues come up.

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Judith Skillman
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Judith Skillman (Newcastle, US) says...

Excellent and informative writing about the media and about the state of our nation. We must support the press speak truth to power, now more than ever before.

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

We are also obliged to criticize the press when they merely echo the lies of the powerful. In this case, much of the press has taken a side, not just against the policies of the President, but against the election itself on behalf of the parties of war and Wall St. Just as the US has in the past agitated in other countries for coups against democratic outcomes they don’t like, much of the press, including this editorial, is now agitating for a coup here at home.

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Peter Ford
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Peter Ford (Dallas) says...

Nailed it - Thank you.

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TB Smith
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TB Smith (Ba, Oklahoma, US) says...

The divisiveness brought on by this shamefully poor excuse for a president has been once again, borne out by this article, and the responses to it .. his most devoted followers are the most gullible and easily swayed sheeple since the \"Kool-Aid party in Jonestown\" ... those who stand up the most fervently to this dictator \"wanabe\", will , inthe end, see him and the fellow purveyors of his garbage rhetoric like FOX News, Alex Jones, Breitbart, etc., crumble and be dumped like stale crackers (pardon the pun) .. we must impeach this tyrant before too much damage is done, either from within or outside our borders.

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

So it’s OK that access to outlets that simply recognize Trump as President is indeed being shut down? But isn’t that exactly what this editorial is against? Should outlets that cheered on Obama’s wars and love of Wall St have likewise been shut down? Only John Birch Society–inspired screeds against Trump indicate the “legitimate” press?

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

TB Smith’s comment in apparent support of the us-vs-them tone of this editorial illustrates why so many people distrust so much of the press (although, again, it appears to be only pro-Trump and anti-imperialist outlets that are actually being shut down): They are promulgating hysterical claims about fascism, Russians, and “crackers” not in the interest of the people, but wholly on behalf of the neoliberal/neoconservative program of Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama to deny Trump the Presidency and even remove him from office – not democratically, but by coup if necessary. That makes the press rather anti-democratic and, indeed, against the people.

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Amelia Stone
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Amelia Stone (E Dummerston, Vermont, US) says...

Kudos to the Boston Globe for encouraging newspapers across the country to remind us all of the value of a free press, and to the Commons for hearing that call. The NYTimes article, A Free Press Needs You, concludes with the following: \"If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers. Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together.\" Today I plan to subscribe.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #429 (Wednesday, October 11, 2017). This story appeared on page D1.

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