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South County Beat: Grandmothers reap club's benefits

Editor's note: Today we debut the South County Beat by Gayle Cuddy. Her column will appear every other week.

An Arroyo Grande resident, she teaches writing and exercise classes for local adult schools. She moved to Arroyo Grande from the Bay Area several years ago, where she worked in the social service field. She has two sons who teach at the community college level in San Diego, and her husband is Tribune Senior Staff Writer Bob Cuddy. Anyone with story ideas involving interesting people in the South County can call her at 489-1026 or send an e-mail to nightengayles@aol.com.

The California Grandmothers' Club Inc. is a nonprofit group founded in 1949 to provide affordable housing for grandmothers aged 55 and over.

One result of this endeavor was the Arroyo Grande Grandmothers' Mobile Home Park, founded in 1970 and bought for $64,000 at 1241 Farroll Ave. It is one of 12 Grandmothers' Clubs around the state, which raise money to develop more properties.

Back in 1970 there was little affordable housing for seniors. And widows had the hardest time because without their husbands, they were often left without adequate income.

Bette Presley has lived in the Arroyo Grande Park since 1999. Elsie June Frank arrived in 2001. They are both active, and recently co-chaired the 60th annual Convention, which took place in October. It is a fun event for members only that features entertainment, crafts and sale of baked goods.

The Arroyo Grande property includes 64 mobile homes and a clubhouse, and currently houses 90 residents. Exercise classes, cards, Mexican train (a domino game), painting, craft and knitting groups are among activities that residents enjoy.

Bette and Elsie June both co-chair the Beautification Committee, which was started after the park received a $20,000 donation. Fundraising today is done by holding dinners. The result is a lovely, landscaped entrance with drought-resistant plants, flowers and fruit trees.

In 1987 the club welcomed grandfathers to become members and residents. Members are strongly encouraged to attend the monthly meetings, participate in fundraising, and volunteer in the park or community.

The annual convention is for members only, including people on the waiting list. The theme for this year was "The Good Ol' Days." While much of the convention consists of meetings, there is also a dinner and "Fun Entertainment and Drawings."

Entertainment this year included the Harmonica Troubadours leading a sing-a-long, square and line dancing, songs and skits by members and drawings. There was also a country store selling crafts made by members.

If a person wants to buy a mobile home in the park, they must attend two monthly meetings and get their name on the waiting list. They buy a mobile home from the owner or the owner's family. Members have voted not to allow pets. Currently there is one mobile home for sale.

The homes for sale are not listed in the local papers or with real estate agents. However, an owner can put a sign in their window. The waiting list can move quickly, as some people on the list might have found other living arrangements or moved away.

The Grandmothers' Mobile Home Park, as a nonprofit, has many advantages over other local parks. It cannot be sold, leaving owners with no place to live.

The service charge and space fee are reasonable (currently about $235), the space fee never increases once the home is bought, and sale prices

are low by San Luis Obispo County standards. Most of the homes are two-bedroom.

Members continue to search for new properties throughout the state to develop further nonprofit mobile home sites for grandmothers and grandfathers.

Anyone interested in donating a property or buying a home can call Herman Cash, Liaison Committee chair, at 473-2324.

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