Carter, Joan Turner and Helen Elm help themselves at a recent pot luck
lunch with the Harvestime Club in North Highlands. —Photo by Jennifer Morita
Highlands Harvestime Club Celebrates 38 Years
Jennifer K. Morita
decades of moving from site to site, surviving budget cuts and
macramé, the Harvestime Club – and it’s loyal
following of lifelong learners – is celebrating 38 years
in North Highlands this month.
“The focus we have is friendship and fun and mutual support,” Harvestime
Director Lyla Hanson said. “We encourage each other and keep each other
Harvestime started in 1977 as part of what was then the Grant Union High School
District’s adult education program.
“Harvestime was originally conceived as an idea for what we used to call ‘lifelong
learning’, which was kind of a buzz phrase for a while in the ’70s,” Hanson
said. “The idea was that even though you were getting to retirement age,
you didn’t stop learning.”
Volunteers taught classes such as leatherwork and ceramics that were free of
charge and geared for people 55 and older.
Over the years, Harvestime morphed into something a little different.
“It changed because nobody wanted to do macramé anymore,” Hanson
said. “Also, the people participating have gotten older, which is probably
just part of what’s happened in society.
“Most of the people who come to the program are women, and women are working
longer. In fact, quite a few of the participants are widows.”
Rather than formal classes, guest speakers discuss topics such as health or fitness.
Sometimes, there’s a craft project or live entertainment.
“We have some retired nurses who participate, and once a month they take
everybody’s blood pressure and record it,” Hanson said. “I’ve
noticed more than once, when someone is a little worried about a health issue,
they’ll talk to one of the nurses.
“Harvestime is more informal than it used to be, but it’s become
a big support group ... We think of ourselves almost like an extended family.”
The economic downturn and severe budget cuts in education nearly put an end to
“Adult education programs all over the state just got slashed,” Hanson
said. “School districts didn’t have any money, and they were cutting
Officials with the newly-merged Twin Rivers Unified School District wanted to
charge $45 a semester to participate in what was a free program.
“That would have been a hardship for the people who had been coming for
years. I could foresee that it would only be a matter of time before attendance
would dwindle ... It just didn’t feel good to me,” Hanson said.
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So Hanson reached out to the director of the North Highlands
Recreation and Park District, and after a series of meetings,
the school district agreed to let NHRP
fund Harvestime. When the three-year agreement came to an end, Harvestime became
a full-fledged park district program.
Several long-time participants voiced support for Harvestime during park district
“It wasn’t just staff and boardmembers,” Hanson said. “People
in the community went out and said, ‘This is something we want to keep.
We pay taxes, we support the park district, we want to keep this program because
we don’t have much out here.’”
Today, Harvestime participants pay a donation of $10 per semester.
Lunch costs $1.75 and coffee is 25 cents a cup.
Proceeds help pay for activities and supplies, while the park district funds
Hanson’s $125 a week salary.
The morning’s activity is followed by a little bit of easy exercising,
and then a few of the ladies help serve either a potluck lunch or a special meal
they’ve cooked up in the community room’s kitchen.
“It’s a special day out for me every week,” said Ann Betz,
95, who has been participating in Harvestime since 1985. “I love the people
here, and it gets to be a way of life.
“It’s nice to be able to get out.”
Ivy Rhodes, 83, was one of the original Harvestime volunteers and still attends
the gatherings with her husband.
“It’s fun, and they do different things,” said Rhodes, adding
that she especially looks forward to the weekly meals.
Harvestime is held Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the North Highlands
Recreation and Park District Recreation Center, 6040 Watt Ave.
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