Coffee Tea & BLC is celebrating an important milestone. To fully understand its evolution and true impact today–one year later–let’s take a look back . . . . .
In mid-January, feeling a little worse for the wear, I, like most of us, had COVID fatigue. Our college senior was still on his school-mandated extended holiday quarantine with us at home–not exactly what he had in mind for his 21st year. My husband was going on 10 full months working out of our upstairs guest bedroom. I was cleaning a lot of toilets, doing a lot of laundry, dreading the grocery store and making a lot of meals . . . . .honestly, we were all doing the best we could and yet, my spirit was plummeting. Enter into my life Coffee Tea & BLC.
I joined my first on-line Coffee Tea & BLC session late January, and what an UNEXPECTED GIFT! I made new friends from complete strangers, I connected with such authentic shared experience, I felt comfortable in my vulnerability and in expressing myself in what I perceived a healing way. I LEFT ENERGIZED, showing back up to my life with spirited intention. How had this happened in one hour through an on-line coffee talk?
Enter Ellen Keckler. Two years ago, in her second year as an Experienced Engaged Fellow with Boomers Leading Change, Ellen had the intuitive (she is a social worker after all) vision to gather Boomers’ volunteers who had been outsourced to other service agencies in a monthly community camaraderie setting. The vision grew and the torch was passed to Janis Pluss, a second-year Experienced Engaged Fellow and kindred spirit social worker. Janis planned for and envisioned in-person, monthly coffee talks around the City for volunteers of Boomers’ service agency partners to share in fellowship.
And then . . . .
March 2020 hit us like a tornado with the arrival of the Pandemic and our world shutting down. Isolation (physical as well as spiritual) became a reality for most of us. Ellen and Janis worked their intuitive magic and together brought these coffee talks quickly on-line.
“A year ago when we started Coffee, Tea and BLC, we thought it might be a way to bridge the isolation gap that seemed to instantly widen for adults ages 50+ as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. During the past year, we have seen the program grow; it has gone from being a temporary offering to becoming an ongoing program at Boomers Leading Change to help foster social connections. For those who haven’t joined us yet, please feel free to drop in any Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock Mountain Time; we’d love to meet you!”
–Ellen Keckler, Co-Founder
“Reflections from this past year and honoring how Coffee, Tea, & BLC has met its goals of decreasing social isolation and increasing social connections has brought me such tremendous pleasure and sense of accomplishment not to mention a whole new set of “friends” I never expected to meet. It has been my pleasure and honor as a co founder to continue these discussions, to meet former and new friends, and to be able to develop supportive relationships.”
–Janis Pluss, Co-Founder
April 9th, 2020, Coffee Tea & BLC was born. These weekly gatherings caught on like wildfire, and a year later, an average of 80 people per month still participate, including those from outside Colorado–an extra benefit to the program’s on-line evolution. Many participants are loyal regulars of the program since it started last year.
“It provides me with time to watch and listen to people who are already retired for some time (I retired last May, during the pandemic, so it hasn’t felt like retirement, or at least what I thought retirement would feel like.) and hear about their activities and perspectives. Also, although I am in contact with my friends and family, being around “strangers” who are gathered for a mutual and positive purpose has been reassuring. I have not felt the world is a kindly place for a number of years.”
–Peter Clarke, participant
Though the topics are very diverse (favorite birthdays, your perfect day, what the Pandemic has meant for you, etc.) and are pre-selected, I can personally attest to the fact that rich, substantive, real conversation develops, organically taking on a life of its own each week, regardless of that day’s prompt. This, in and of itself, is the true healing and transformative nature of what Ellen and Janis have created. It is a safe, consistent space for shared human connection in a time where we all so desperately need it.
“State and National guidelines to the COVID19 outbreak had left me feeling isolated. Looking for connection, I did not expect to meet so many strangers I had so much in common with. Coffee Tea and BLC has become a gathering space for me. A sense of community.”––Gail Evans, participant
“I always have a positive vibe that stays with me for a couple of days, after one of the coffee meetings. That said, I guess the program has had a positive affect on my outlook on life.”– Lucinda Brookens, participant who lives in Washington
And, GREAT news!! These two ladies have recently launched The Weekly Wind Down on Thursday afternoons to inspire more transformative energy and positivity by discussing “good news” of the week.
On a final note, PLEASE JOIN US for a special 1st-year birthday party during Coffee Tea & BLC’s normal time slot: Wednesday, April 7th, at 10am. Whether a regular attendee or brand new to the program, we want to celebrate with YOU!!
“By all means, come and try it. It’s a warm and welcoming group. We discuss things that we might not have thought of talking about in our usual get togethers with friends, and that’s refreshing. The topics are typically non-controversial. Instead, they are stimulating and tend to help people open up with memories and ideas they are willing to share with this non-judgmental group. It is, quite simply, a pleasure that I look forward to every week!”
–Ina Nenninger, participant