By Dana Delgado
Since its ambitious beginnings in 1998, seniors have flocked to the unpretentious brick building at 3307 RR 1869. While the organization has wrapped itself in a host of civic and social activities since its inception, its central rallying event has become the weekly 11:30 a.m. home cooked luncheons held every Thursday.
So endearing the assembly and so etched the date and time on every member’s calendar, one might believe it was a family reunion. In many ways, it is. The only thing is that most attending are not related, but affectionately connected through enduring friendships. No one could have imagined what the future would hold when the Over the Hill Gang opened its doors to Liberty Hill’s senior citizens 17 years ago. For all the seniors that have come and gone and those that faithfully continue to wander through its doors, the place has been a lifesaver, a refuge, and a home away from home where age has its rewards like rich memories, perpetual needs like the need to continue to belong and the realization that time is precious.
Loraine Williams, one of the charter members who helped formed the non-profit organization with 40-50 members and who has served as the group’s president and treasurer, said the original intent of the group was to “get people out of their rocking chairs.”
“We wanted to give them (Liberty Hill’s senior citizens) a meeting place,” Williams said. “It’s been a good thing for many reasons for a lot of people, but we have lost many members along the way. It’s good to come and sit down and chat with neighbors. Sometimes we stay for quite a while.”
The organization, with an active membership ranging from 45-70, is open to anyone 50 years of age or older. Most members, according to current organization President Dean Klein, are in their 60’s, but there are a number of members in their 70’s and 80’s. Klein, who moved to Liberty Hill in 2010 with his wife, first became aware of the organization in 2011 when his neighbor, who was running for the group’s presidency, invited him and his wife to one of the luncheons. He never really left and has been leading the group for the past year along with Tom Sandlin, vice president; Harold Cox, secretary; and Beth Blair, treasurer. Sam Blair and Benny Carson are serving as the organization’s directors.
“That (Over the Hill Gang) was my baby,” said Suzy Bates who was the first president for a number of years. “I had just retired and needed something to do. At first the building was just a game place, but when one member’s wife died, the luncheon started when her husband was so hungry for beans and cornbread. That’s how it (the luncheon) got started. Now we consistently have a big crowd including the Constables who always come for lunch. It’s been a very special place to me and the only place where I can see all my friends.”
Williams said the Over the Hill Gang started out as an organization for local seniors, but now welcomes members from throughout the region including Georgetown, Cedar Park, Bastrop and Bertram. Bertram resident Gayle Atkins, a newcomer to the organization, said she finds the group to be very welcoming and friendly as has Liberty Hill resident Bernice Noland.
“I enjoy coming,” said Noland, who has been active with the group for the past couple of years. The Minnesota native, who spent 34 years in the Rio Grande Valley, said she settled in Liberty Hill and kept hearing about the group but could never find them. Once she found them, she became an active member. “I enjoy the people, the food, the games (board games and Dominoes) and having a nice time,” she said.
Over the years, the group has held birthday celebrations and has been active in Fourth of July and Christmas festivities as well as Easter egg hunts. Members have also worked with a number of community organizations including the Lions Club, local Girl Scouts, various youth sports leagues and Meals on Wheels.
As a non-profit, the organization relies on the generosity of its members as well as the community. Williamson County has not only allowed the organization to use its former county annex but maintains the building, which is also used by other groups for special meetings or events. By charter agreement, members are not charged dues so the organization depends on everyone to pitch in and help with various duties. Some members clean and wash dishes while others provide desserts and still others make a donation towards the meal.
For the past five years, Jane Allman has been volunteering as the Kitchen Director serving up delicious home cooked meals. Allman has also been a past Vice President, but has decided to relinquish her kitchen responsibilities to enjoy the benefits of membership. A group of volunteers from Grace Alive Church in Liberty Hill will be taking over the duties of preparing the weekly meal for the area’s seniors.
“We’re excited to be helping out,” said Pastor Dawn Slack of Grace Alive Church. “We’ve seen the hard work she (Jane Allman) does in the kitchen. They love her. The Lord spoke to my heart when I heard she was stepping down. We’re always looking for opportunities to help the community. This (Over the Hill Gang) is a great group.”
On July 15, the Over the Hill Gang celebrates its 17th anniversary. It started out as a gathering opportunity for the area’s senior citizens, but has become something much more noteworthy. It is not only a credit but a tribute to those that have helped shape Liberty Hill. As the organization continues to thrive and serve, a memory wall inside the Over the Hill Gang building prominently displays the names of all the members who have passed but are not forgotten.
Additional information on the Over the Hill Gang is available by calling (512) 778-5344.