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Retire Blacksburg Expo '95 planned

By Jessie Hensley, University Relations intern

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 31 - May 4, 1995

Through a joint effort between several town institutions and Virginia Tech, Blacksburg could gain a few new residents. In June, the Retire Blacksburg Expo '95 will present the best the town has to offer to potential retirees.

Blacksburg, with its diverse population, low crime rate, beautiful scenery, low cost of living and, last, but not least, the Virginia Tech campus, was recently ranked by Rand McNally as one of the top retirement communities in the United States.

"There is a definite benefit to the community to showcase the area to people who are financially secure and who contribute to the community by volunteering," said J.C. Gordon, senior program director for program development-continuing education, and co-chair of the Seminar and Exhibits' Committee.

Tech's involvement is an integral part of the Retire Blacksburg project, since the campus is an important attraction for members of the community. "The university has a lot of cultural events, and it's a beautiful campus. A university offers programs which the community can attend," said Roy Jones, also a senior program director for program development-continuing education, and registration chair for the expo.

"People want a ready source for entertainment and continuing education," Gordon added.

Retirees interested in continuing education have an advantage over younger students. The Senior Citizen's Higher Education Act of 1974 provides tuition waivers for anyone 60 years old or more.

Gordon began work on Retire Blacksburg last August after Tech administrators asked to be involved, she said.

"We're trying to foster relationships. There's a lot of emphasis on collaboration and partnerships between the town and the university," she said. "The idea is to build those partnerships to strengthen the community."

Gordon said the principal reason Tech is involved is to foster a healthy relationship with the community--"mainly good will. I feel that there are some things that we do that don't have to be financially lucrative, but are contributing to the greater good," she said.

Measurable benefits for Tech would be minimal, but might include increased visibility for the school, and potential enrichment from retiree volunteerism, Gordon said.

"As a campus that values its diversity, we can attract outstanding career people here who can give their volunteer time to things that help the university," Jones said.

The Steering Committee includes members from all parties involved, including Ron Secrist, the town manager, Buddy Russell, former vice president for alumni relations, Mayor Roger Hedgepeth, Harvey Shephard of the Chamber of Commerce, and Bill Ellenbogen, owner of Bogen's Restaurant.

"They tried to put people on the Steering Committee who came from different walks of life," Gordon said.

There are several sub-committees orchestrating the expo, including tours, hospitality and sporting events, marketing, registration, schedule of events and the Ambassadors Committee, Gordon said.

The Ambassadors Committee is a unique aspect of the campaign. Members of the Blacksburg community--business and civic leaders, educators, artists and retirees--have volunteered to entertain and enlighten visitors during the expo.

Ambassadors invited eligible out-of-town friends to visit Blacksburg, and Hedgepeth sent personalized letters of invitation to these prospective residents. Approximately 5,000 pieces of mail have been sent out to names obtained from townspeople and the American Association of Retired Persons.

Twenty-five people have registered so far, but it is expected that about 50 people will be registered by the start of the expo, according to Molly Tucker, of the Marketing Committee.

Visitors will participate in the expo from June 8 through June 11. They can attend a Pre-Expo Golf Tournament Thursday afternoon at the Blacksburg Country Club, and a reception in the evening. There will be seminars, discussions, lunches and tours throughout the weekend, and potential residents can dine at the restaurant of their choice with other retirees Friday night.

The registration fee is $150 and covers all conference materials, but participants must provide their own lodging. Hotel rooms are reserved at discount prices, and are available for a continued stay.

Seminars will cover a variety of topics, including health and wellness, arts and entertainment, education opportunities, financial planning, volunteer opportunities and housing and area tours.

Tours will explore Mountain Lake Resort, the Homestead, the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, and other attractions. The arts and entertainment seminars will highlight the New River Valley Arts Council, the Roanoke Symphony, university entertainment, and nearby museums and wineries.

As Gordon said, visitors "will have a very clear vision of Tech when they leave here."

For more information about the Retire Blacksburg Expo '95 call 1-800-288-4061, or by FAX, 703-231-9886.