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Hooks baited with hot dogs, these seniors are ready to fish
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers volunteer Dave Wharton helps Lilian Guecses with her rod and reel Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, during a fishing trip by the Senior Life Center to a private pond near Buford Dam. - photo by Scott Rogers

After a 23-mile trip from the Hall County Senior Life Center to a private pond near the Buford Dam, a group of 13 seniors file out of a white van and head over to the bank. Trees surround the pond, providing a peaceful atmosphere often not found in the hustle and bustle of Gainesville.

The group was there to have some fun outside, while they cast their lines into the pond to catch whatever would bite the small piece of hot dog on the end of their hooks.

“I’m very appreciative that they bring us out here because it breaks the monotony of sitting there in that building so much,” said Bernice Austin, 90. “If we did not have an outlet like this, I'd be sitting at home wondering what’s going on that’s none of my business.”

The Senior Life Center often offers different activities and trips for its guests. During the summer months and into fall, one of those events is a trip to the pond, which is stocked with catfish, bass and brim. The bank, though, is stocked with volunteers.

“I’ve always fished, and this opportunity came up,” said Bob Grenner, a 20-year volunteer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “I think sometimes we have as much fun as the people that come visit. They enjoy it, so we enjoy it. It’s rewarding.”

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers volunteer Bob Grenner holds up a catfish caught by Lilian Guecses Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, at a private pond in South Hall. Guecses and others from the Senior Life Center spent a morning fishing. - photo by Scott Rogers

The volunteers let the guests do as much as they can. Sometimes they need help casting or baiting a hook. Sometimes they need assistance reeling in a fish or taking it off the hook after it’s been caught. Sometimes they don’t need any help at all. No matter what is required, the guests from the Senior Life Center are always having a good time.

Calvin Mangum, 67, said he’s been fishing all his life. He used to live in Florida and said there were lots of options around his home. Moving back up to Georgia, he knew he had to find a way to stay active and do the things he’d always enjoyed, so he started going to the Senior Life Center and found plenty of options.

“It just helps you get out of the house so you’re not just sitting, moping around,” Mangum said. “You can get out and do something.”

Anne Smith, 73, said even if she wasn’t fishing, she’d be enjoying herself because the trip is an outlet to have fun with friends and breathe in fresh air. She said she likes to stay active and is involved in many things with the Senior Life Center.

“I don’t like to sit down,” Smith said. “This is important to me because it makes me realize I can just relax and look at this beautiful scenery.”

What was originally planned as an outing for men turned into an outing for everyone at the Senior Life Center. There’s a friendly competition between the men and women on who can catch the most fish each time they make the trip.

“This gets them outside with nature,” said Nancy Simpson, program coordinator at the Senior Life Center. “Also, a lot of them used to fish back in the day, and with everything being set up as it is, it makes it easy for them and accessible for them to fish again.”