When Donna Gebler realized that many of the women in her neighborhood needed a support system, she knew she had to do something. In her professional life, as a licensed clinical social worker, she had always been a strong advocate for women — she may have retired from work, but not from her desire to help others.
In 2011, Gebler and a neighbor created a contact list for all the single, widowed and divorced women in Garden Park — Daybreak’s 55-plus community — and distributed it to all 30 women on the list. The group developed a system to check in with, and watch out for one another on a regular basis.
Over the years, as Daybreak became more populated, and tight-knit neighbors took on the role of watching out for one another, the group evolved into more of a social support network and the Dames were born.
“Since I had instigated it, I called us the Dames,” says Gebler with a laugh. “That wasn’t necessarily a favorite name back then, but it stuck.”
Today, the group has more than 100 women on the roster and multiple social events each month. All events are optional and each member attends as they wish, or as their situation allows.
A community stipend initially helped the Dames cover the cost of refreshments, entertainment and décor for their gatherings, most of which are held at the Daybreak clubhouse. When the stipend ended, the women began self-funding through potluck dinners and such. Each Dame pays individually for nights out on the town, such as movies or dinner.
As a group of single women, most of whom are retired and living on a fixed income, they are always grateful for offers of help. Which is why they were so ecstatic when Sagewood at Daybreak reached out to them with an offer they couldn’t refuse: Sagewood wanted to host the Dames for a monthly activity. All costs and planning for the activities would be covered by Sagewood.
“I was so excited when I got the email inviting us to do that,” said Mary Ann Shaw, Dames chairperson. “I couldn’t believe it!”
Sagewood had always welcomed the Dames and the larger Daybreak community to utilize their amenities. The senior living community even hosted the Dames occasionally, but this was different — on the first Friday of every month, Sagewood would treat the Dames to a unique activity.
“One of the activities they want to do is a Bees baseball game and things like that,” says Shaw. “And they’re all free.”
Wade Vest, executive director of Sagewood, says the Dames share the same values and vision as Sagewood, and the monthly activities allow them to get to know one another better. He says the Dames have taught him a lot in the time he’s spent with them.
“It’s such a service-oriented organization they’ve created where, not only are they super good friends with one another, but they also look for ways to serve other people,” Vest says. They’ve taught me a lot about what it means to be happy — it’s through serving others and taking care of each other.”
If you would like to meet people like Donna and Mary Ann and see more of what Sagewood has to offer, stop by and visit Sagewood at Daybreak, or call 801.806.0636.