Top: Participants enjoying lunch at the Golden Circle in Elizabethtown. Referred to as the 3 L’s, left to right: Lovirn Spivey, Laura Wallace and Loretta Bayne. Pictured at bottom: Bill and Sue McMaster facing the camera. — Jennifer Lane photos.

By Jennifer Lane

I visited the Golden Circle Senior Citizens Center two Thursdays ago, and spoke with Archie Cornell, Sue McMaster, Radian Denton, and Martha Williams about how the Center began and evolved. Because it was hard for everyone to remember specific dates and details, I also obtained some of the information in this article from the “Hardin County Illinois Past and Present” book where Wanda Conley and Betty Green submitted articles about the programs.
In its first stages, Cornell, who at that time was the Chairman of the Hardin County Board and James Lane, who was a coordinator for Governor Dan Walker, began talking about the idea of opening a center for seniors in Hardin County. They traveled to Springfield to learn more and promote the idea. When investigating how they should go about starting this project, they learned that they would need to provide some sort of transportation to get people to the program. At that time, there was no rural transportation program in all of the United States. There was public transportation in cities, but no rural transportation programs. Hardin County had been without public transportation since 30 years prior.
Cornell and Lane learned that they would need to write a grant to approve and at least partially fund this project. Verona Dutton, along with Claudia Lane, began putting the information needed together. They had guidance from Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon on how to write the grant. When the Pope County Board members learned of Hardin County’s idea, they requested to be in a partnership. It was approved so they became partners in the program.
In December of 1973, the project was approved and the board named the program the Golden Circle Senior Citizens Center. For the first few years, rides were given to participants and meals were delivered by individuals. Eventually in 1976, the Golden Circle sponsored a federally funded, not-for-profit, transportation program called Rides. The Golden Circle was awarded a two year demonstration program to provide transportation in the area. According to Cornell, it was known to be the first “rural” transportation program in the United States. The Golden Circle and Rides shared space at the Elizabethtown Grade School building on Pearl Street. Funds from a Rural Research and Demonstration Grant were used to purchase four 15-passenger vans and provide transportation to Pope and Hardin Counties.
The original staff at Hardin County was comprised of Project Director Claudia Lane; Site Manager Kathleen Burgess who resigned and was succeeded by Clara Elder; Food Supervisor, Louisa Henderson; Head Cook, Hazel Williams; and Bookkeeper/Secretary, Betty Green (who later became director in 1977).
The Golden Circle program did well and grew so much that eventually it was time to find a new building. Since the entrance to the building had only an option to go upstairs or downstairs, handicap accessibility was a problem. There were often stumbling blocks with the state fire martial, but organizers worked hard to meet safety goals, such as adding a chair lift to the stairs. The kitchen area was nearly in the dining area and the place was often full at meal time. There was very little parking for those who did drive to the Center.
On the transportation side of the program, Cornell and Denton spoke about how in the beginning they serviced the vehicles. Both of their wives also worked as drivers and dispatchers.
The Center had fund raisers of all kinds to solicit donations for its future project. The organization was able to secure land through the University of Illinois and a rural development grant at the “Experiment Station” on Hwy. 146 next to the school. The community came together, along with many generous donors – some giving thousands, to facilitate the new construction. Finally in 2001, the Golden Circle moved into the new building and continued serving seniors of the community.
Over the years, both the Golden Circle and Rides programs became popular and grew. Along with Hardin County, currently there are Golden Circle Centers in Pope, Saline, and Gallatin Counties – all stemming from the development of the Hardin County Golden Circle. Seemingly, Rides also grew after separating from the Golden Circle sponsorship. It now serves 18 counties in southeastern Illinois.


Quilting at the Golden Circle in Elizabethtown, left to right: Beverly Hall, Orpha McBee, Agnes McBee. Collectively, the ladies spend 200 hours per month on projects. Proceeds from sales go directly to the Golden Circle. –Jennifer Lane photos.
Today, the Golden Circle continues to serve the community in a fantastic way. The doors are open to ALL members of the community and families. Organizers at the Center encourage participants to bring friends and family members – young and old. There are many things to do and activities offered. Visitors can participate in quilting, pool, painting class, line dancing, games, learn through educational presentations, or just sit and visit with friends. Weekly, volunteers play and sing music before and during lunch. It is a laid back and enjoyable time at the Center.

Golden Circle Line Dancing class l-r: Candy Carr, Helen Hicks, Sharon Reed, Carole Ewell, Kaye Tolbert, Sandy Potts, Dorothy Hobbs and Monica Daily Instructor — Martha Williams photo. Photos 2 & 3: Sharon Wiesemann, Natalie Daily, Wilma Gibbs, Monica Daily. — Jennifer Lane photos.


Bill McMaster and Skip Brownfield playing pool in the pool room. In case you are wondering Skip is sporting a homemade Easter Bonnet. Participants were encouraged to wear an Easter Bonnet that day in celebration of Easter. — Jennifer Lane photo.
While visiting the Center, I spoke with Joyce Anderson, who teaches the painting class. She welcomes adults of all ages interested in learning to paint to come and visit her class a few times before deciding whether or not to join. Members of the class paint with oil and acrylic on different surfaces, such as, canvas, wood, and tin. She says you don’t need to know how to draw to paint. Anderson shares her supplies at first, and if interested, she asks that individuals eventually purchase his or her own. She recommends a person sticking to the class for 6-8 weeks to allow for learning and improvement.

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Pictured is Carole Barnard, Joyce Anderson, and Karen McGuire during paint class. Other students not pictured include Sharon Belford, Val Holbrook, and Dena Jefferson. –Martha Williams photo.
If a person doesn’t want to come in, the Center also offers “Meals on Wheels” delivered to his or her home. A person must be 60 or older to qualify, be homebound and meet other eligibility requirements. Many say that the healthy meals offered at the Center are the best tasting around, and served in generous portions. There is a suggested donation of $4 for those over 60 or $8.22 for those under 60, but no one is turned away.
According to McMaster, the Hardin County Center has been known to have the most volunteers of all the Centers. She also admitted that the Center has the best cooks around, and they often volunteer their time for fund raisers and other activities to improve the Center.

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Fund raiser tailgate rummage sale at Golden Circle. — Martha Williams photo.
McMaster emphasized that the Golden Circle faces financial instability and survives on a month to month basis. It relies heavily on the donations received during the many fundraisers that are put on. Often you may see advertisements in the Hardin County Independent for a “Spring Fling”, “Community Fun Night,” bake sales, and yard sales. These are times when the Center is needing help purchasing a particular item or trying to get by. For example, the Center has to purchase its own appliances. Donating money or items to sell during fund raisers is a way the community can help. Donations of trinkets and other things are accepted at any time. Also, the Center can be rented out, after hours, for gatherings, baby showers, birthdays, etc. The rent is another way the Center brings in needed revenue. The rental fee for the building is $50 with a refundable $75 security deposit.

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May Pole game at one of the Community Fun night fund raisers. –Martha Williams photo.

Volunteering is always welcomed at the Golden Circle. Robin Jenkins has donated her time to improve and maintain the beautiful flower beds in front of the building each year. McMaster invites new volunteers, saying there is always room for more help. If interested in volunteering, call 287-5592.

Beautiful flower gardens created by Robin Jenkins who volunteered her time to improve the Golden Circle. — Julie Farley photos

Not only does the Center rely on an alternative source of funding, it also relies on the number of people served. The Activity Coordinator for the Golden Circle, Martha Williams, is instrumental in getting the word out about the happenings, menu, and activities in her weekly article submitted to the Hardin County Independent. She is always hopeful to gain a new face and increase those served by the Center. The more served, the better the Center is funded, and will prove to continue.
For those who are interested in visiting the Golden Circle for lunch and activities, some seniors arrive as early as 7:45 a.m. and spend the day relaxing, reading the paper, etc. Most come between 10:00 and 11:30 a.m. The entertainment generally starts around 11:00 a.m.

Hardin County Pickers at the Golden Circle, left to right: James Cowsert, Charles Cruson, Deyon Foster, and Hansel Cook. Saltwell Dulcimer Band from Equality, and Shawnee Holler Bunch.  — Martha Williams photos.
For those who qualify, staff at the Golden Circle can also help you get signed up for license plate discounts, provide help with Medicare Part D and Extra Help enrollment. Rules of the Road is offered quarterly, and legal services are available through SIU Legal School.
For more information, or to lend yourself in some fashion to the Center, contact the Golden Circle or one of its Board members: Sue McMaster, Chair; Archie Cornell, Vice Chair; Linda Smith, Treasurer; Pat Cox, Secretary; Loretta Bayne; Barbara Vinyard; Roy Jackson; Gary Gross; Mona Scantling; Thelma Austin; Gwynn Johnson; and Lovirn Spivey.

Some of the regulars who bless the visitors with entertainment, l – r: Patsy Lee, Thelma Cruson, Roy Jackson. — Martha Williams photos

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Veterans are honored at the Golden Circle. — Martha Williams photo.


Natalie Daily told the Independent that she is 6 years old, but technically 6 3/4. She came to the Center with her grandmother Monica Daily. Natalie drew pictures for everyone that day. I also saw her line dancing. She goes to NCA in Chicago. Even grandchildren are welcome at the Golden Circle!      — Jennifer Lane photo.


2-23-17 Martha surprised pic

Monthly birthdays are printed in the Independent — Golden Circle February Birthdays: Staff and clients surprised Martha Williams with cards and gifts on February 15 for her birthday. Others celebrating February birthdays are pictured left to right: Valerie Holbrook, Wilburn Cornell, Martha Williams, Jim Scantling, Beverly Hall, Helen Hicks, and Harold Green. — photo furnished.


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