Being single doesn't have to mean being alone.
For two decades, Vancouver's 42-Plus Singles has served as a gateway for widowed, divorced or never-married people to meet others in casual social settings.
This month the group is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It operates under a simple -- but substantial -- mission: confronting boredom and loneliness head-on by getting singles out of the house and together.
"We don't have to eat alone," said Tana Hart, longtime member and group secretary.
42-Plus Singles was founded in 1993 by George Held, Jack Gardner and Kathy Walsh. The ranks have grown significantly since then and there are now more than 100 dues-paying members.
It's not a dating group, but that hasn't stopped some of the singles from pairing off.
That's exactly what happened to Hart.
A blurb in The Columbian led the 68-year-old to join 42-Plus Singles in its inaugural year. Her husband died in 1991 and after retiring two years later, Hart was struck by the realization her social circle had dwindled to near nothingness. She had been spending most of her time palling around with her mother, who also was widowed.
"All of a sudden I woke up and said: 'If something happens to her, I wouldn't have any friends,'" Hart said. Though not an official member, Hart's now-91-year-old mom can sometimes be spotted at 42-Plus gatherings.
Hart met Duane Hawkins, 70,when he came to the group in 1994. Two years later they started dating and have been together ever since, though they still live separately.
"I consider myself a success story," Hart said.
Members of 42-Plus Singles pay $24 a year and are invited to a handful of member-organized meet-ups each week, from card games at Round Table Pizza to playing pool at Fourth Plain Tavern. Prospective members are encouraged to participate for two months before they start paying dues.
The group is organized much like a nonprofit, with bylaws and an elected board of directors. The current president is Bill Sickels.
Despite the age rule implied by its name, 42-Plus Singles is open to any single older than 21. Still, many of its members are seniors; one just turned 90.
To learn more about 42-Plus Singles, call 360-737-1219. They have a potluck meeting the first Friday of every month at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 426 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.
— Stover E. Harger III
Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.