by J.T. Buchheit
While most clubs involved with the college are geared toward traditional students, there is one organization that bucks this trend. The Brown & Gold Club, which gets its name from the school colors when the club was created, is open to anybody aged 50 or above. Due to a managerial change, the club is not as connected to the college as it once was, but it still offers scholarship opportunities for classes here and offers multiple discounts for college events.
“The Brown & Gold Club is all about education enrichment and civic engagement,” said Cheryl Henderson, one of the managers of the club. “We sponsor day trips, we sponsor lectures, we have a newsletter that goes out quarterly … that has a feature called ‘Let’s Get to Know,’ and it allows Brown & Gold members to get to know each other by providing a profile of a particular member. … We also, if asked, will help market other activities in Johnson County for people 50 and older.”
The organization was started over two decades ago by Virginia Krebs, one of the pioneering members of the college and its first employee.
“[Krebs] was a strong supporter of Johnson County Community College,” Henderson said. “She was a lady in that age range of 50-plus, and she really saw a need of ‘how do you connect my age group to the college?’ Because lifelong learning is something my age group of 50 and older have been crazy about. That’s what keeps you connected and having an interest in life. You don’t want to lose your passion for learning. Mrs. Krebs saw that and wanted to figure out a way Johnson County could capitalize on this huge population of [seniors].”
One of the members of the club, Dwane Wills, has enjoyed all of his experiences with the club. Wills previously served in the U.S. Navy and now works as a Senior Outreach Volunteer at the Johnson County Library.
“Some of the things that we’ve done, we went to the Kansas City Ballet and saw performers practice,” said Wills. “We’ve had a rich and famous homes tour, which was Hollywood stars and people that passed through Kansas City or lived here at one time, which was very interesting. … We’ve gone to the new theater for every change in performances, and we just recently had a plaza walking tour for the architecture and arts down there, which was very enlightening. We had a Kansas City gangster tour. In fact, I’ve been on that three times.”
In addition to working as sponsors and volunteers and participating in recreational activities, the Brown & Gold Club also holds classes that involve various activities. One of these is the 50 Forward Saturday College for Midlife and Older Adults, which is held in the Johnson County Public Library system.
“The last class we had was in September, and it was a cell phone class,” said Henderson. “We’re finding that people 50 and older are really into technology, but they’re not quite up to speed on how to use it. So one of the things we try to do is offer classes that meet a need, so cell phones, Twitter … what’s the difference between an iPhone, an Android, a BlackBerry … Also, how to use your computer with downloading your photos and cataloguing them, and anything dealing with technology. So our Saturday class really focuses on that kind of thing, in addition to personal enrichment.”
The club recently underwent a change in management, causing the organization to be downsized and less active for a period of time. After the change, the Shepherd’s Center, located in Kansas City, Missouri, took on a more prominent role with the club.
“There was all kinds of changes being made at the college,” said Wills. “And the Brown & Gold Club was like the phoenix, which had to arise from the ashes, because the people running it were only part-time, and one of them wanted to get into cosmetology. … We had a day-trip committee, and we had to let all those people go. So the Shepherd’s Center took us under their wing and have just performed miracles since they’ve taken over based on what had happened, since the Brown & Gold Club was dying on the vine.”
The club has rebounded somewhat since the adjustment, and is always looking for new members. For more information, visit the Brown & Gold page on the Shepherd’s Center’s website.