RIPLEY • For those who are 50 years or older and looking for a place to get out, visit, and learn new things, the Young at Heart group in Ripley is just the place. It only costs $3 a month to join, and the group meets at the Ripley Parks and Recreation building. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, they do aerobics from 8:30-9:30 a.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they meet in the park’s Compton Center for arts and crafts from 8 a.m. to noon.

Kim Hellums started the program 26 years ago, and, except for a five-year break, has been directing it ever since. She said, “Our purpose is to serve your mind, your spirit and your body.” In addition to the aerobics, they also have a time just to drink coffee and chat with each other. When a member is going through a tough time, they make sure to send cards and keep them in their prayers.

For arts and crafts, she is really excited about pottery and ceramics, which is their most recent endeavor. They have been experimenting with a variety of different things – some of their pottery has added texture because they pressed old doilies into the clay before it was baked. It takes a lot of patience to work with clay because you don’t get instant result. It takes about a week to go from a lump of clay to finished product, whether that’s a tray or an ornament or a coaster.

They also use their pottery kilns to make “slumped bottles,” where they take old glass wine bottles and melt them into decorative molds. Some of the bottles have a special paint that stays on, even in the extreme heat of the kiln, which gives the finished product a very unique style.

In addition to pottery, they do a variety of other crafts, such as flower arrangement, painting, sewing, quilting and woodworking, to name a few. Hellums said, “It’s not a taught class; we teach each other. Everyone might come in with a project and say ‘Hey, let’s try to make this!’ And we all get together and we figure it out.”

The Compton Center becomes a store during Christmas season, and the projects that they have been working on all year are available for buying. It’s a great opportunity to buy Christmas gifts, because their prices are very reasonable. The most expensive items are about $40-45, and that’s for just a few things like quilts or the stoneware.  Hellums said she’s working on finding somebody who can work there so the store can have certain hours, but until then, just drop by. If it’s not open, just give her a call and she’ll come down and open it, she said.

For those interested in traveling, there’s a branch of Young at Heart dedicated to that. The Golden Seniors, as they’re called, have visited locations all over the South, including Natchez, the Ark and Creation Museum, and Paula Deen’s house in Georgia. When Hellums first started the program, they focused on aerobics, but eventually they began talking about taking trips together and the Golden Seniors began. She said they started out by renting vans, but that quickly became expensive. So they started fundraising through bake sales and political “stumping.” She said, “They (the politicians) would come speak and pay and buy our cakes for outrageous prices.” With a contribution from the city, they were able to buy their own bus and now they are off and traveling at least once a month. It’s $30 a month to join, and everyone covers their own trip costs. This month, they’re going on a day trip to Memphis, and next month, they’re going on their first cruise, which will be going to Cozumel and Progresso.

Hellums said that anyone who wants to just walk can join for $2 a month; the gym is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for walking. But she also said, “For just a dollar more, they can get it all!”

For questions or more information, contact Kim Hellums at (662) 837-6747.

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