AP NEWS

LGBT seniors gather at supper club

April 1, 2019

FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (AP) — For Joan Stratton, the LGBT Supper Club at the Fairhaven Council on Aging, run by director Anne Silvia, “is home.”

It’s a feeling she doesn’t have at every gathering she attends. When another supper club attendee talked about visiting a different LGBT group and making some new friends, Stratton explained she didn’t have the same experience there as she has in Fairhaven. “It’s a little different when you identify as trans,” she said.

Not many transgender people are out in the area, she said, but “I have to be out.”

The senior Supper Club meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month from 5 to 7 p.m. From late February to late March, the St. Patrick’s Day decorations at the senior center turned to Easter decorations of eggs and bunnies.

A map of Massachusetts LGBT meal site locations as of April 2018, from a report by Boston Indicators and The Fenway Institute, shows just two dots below Sharon and Braintree: the Fairhaven LGBT Supper Club and the Lower Cape LGBT Seniors in Orleans. The latter meets on the fourth Friday of the month at the Orleans Council on Aging.

The lack of services for LGBTQ seniors, particularly when it comes to providing meals in a social setting, is exactly why Silvia started the group in June, also known as pride month, in 2013.

Silvia also runs the Single Seniors Supper, which meets the first Tuesday of the month from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Council on Aging. About 60 to 70 people attend. Silvia wants to see the same number of people at the LGBT supper. A grant from the Lipsky-Whittaker Fund pays for food and activities.

On a Wednesday in February, Silvia talked about possible upcoming events: a paint night and the Daffodil Festival on Nantucket.

There were some new faces at the supper club that evening. Some found out about the group a few days before when Connie Mayer talked about it after a screening of “Cloudburst” at the Whaling Museum. It was the second event in the New Bedford LGBTQ Winter Film Series.

There is a lot of support for LGBTQ youth now that older folks just never had, Silvia said. Since the start of the club, she’s learned a lot about those who attend. “It’s sad to think they lived so much of their lives under a rock,” she said.

Marty Keady, who recently turned 70, started attending the supper club about a year ago, shortly after he moved to Fairhaven when a spot for housing opened up.

Frank Schmidt, 72, of New Bedford, has been coming to the supper club for about five years. A year ago, he started bringing Bill Copeland, 72, who drives him. Schmidt had to give up his license in 2015.

After hearing about options counseling, or assistance with planning for long-term care needs, from representatives at Coastline and Southeast Center for Independent Living, about 20 people helped themselves to vegetable lasagna and salad from a local restaurant, followed by a Boston cream cake made by Silvia.

“It is so good, it’s close to being sinful,” Copeland said about the cake. He’s the director of the Freetown Historical Society.

For Schmidt, the Supper Club is a chance to get out of his apartment and socialize with other people.

“The fact that we all happen to have gay in common is extra,” he said.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2UqCO29

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Information from: The (New Bedford, Mass.) Standard-Times, http://www.southcoasttoday.com