Action in Maturity to mark 40th anniversary

Esther Bonnet, 100, is always thinking about new plans for Action in Maturity — as she has since she co-founded the transportation service for seniors more than 40 years ago.

During a recent visit from Elizabeth Briscoe, AIM's executive director, Bonnet peppered her with some ideas. Sunday bus service, once part of AIM, might need to be revived, she proposed.

She also knows a few people she'd like to invite to sit on the board of directors, and has a couple of fundraising suggestions.

AIM will honor its co-founders, Bonnet and Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, with a reception Thursday, May 2, at 5:30 p.m., at Keswick Multi-Care Center's Auditorium and Garden Patio in Hampden.

Bonnet has been the creative force behind AIM, which it promotes itself as "a senior citizen center without walls," since the early 1970s, before it even had a name. She still marvels at how far the organization has come.

"The growth of AIM has been tremendous," said the longtime Roland Park resident, who now lives at the Symphony Manor retirement community on Roland Avenue.

AIM, based at St. Mary's Outreach Center in Hampden, uses transportation and community outreach to provide activities and services that improve the lives of older people and allow them to live independently as long as possible, according to its website,

AIM's catchment area runs north to the Baltimore County line, south to Pratt Street, east to the Harford Road and west to just beyond Sinai Hospital. It's services include transporting seniors to shopping, concerts, the theater, lectures, museums, health screenings, movies, sporting events and personal appointments.

Aim is funded through the Baltimore City Department of Health Office of Aging under the Older Americana Act. Funding also comes from membership dues and public and private grants.

Bonnet's brainchild

Bonnet remains committed to the organization that now serves some 2,100 north Baltimore residents.

"I just became more and more interested in older people," Bonnet said. "It seemed to become part of my life."

While she was working and volunteering with retirees, Bonnet said she also volunteered with the children who came to the school library at Barclay Elementary School in Charles Village.

"It was a wonderful balance and I've loved every minute of it."

Bonnet came to Baltimore from Boston in the 1960s with her husband, Philip, a physician on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University's School of Public Health.

A mother of five, and now grandmother of 10 and great grandmother of seven, Bonnet has always been active in the community. In addition to her volunteer work at Barclay, as part of the Hopkins Women's Club, was active in Family and Children Services of Central Maryland as both a volunteer and paid staff member.

She served on the board of the Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation and played a role in the development of Stadium Place on the former site of Memorial Stadium. In fact, she just retired from the Stadium Place board.

Bonnet established the group that became Action in Maturity with Clarke under the auspices of the then-nascent Greater Homewood Community Association. She still sits on the board.

"Greater Homewood was formed as a way to bring different neighborhoods in north Baltimore in communication with each other and enhance the quality of life," said Clarke, who was an early president of the association. Meeting the needs of the growing number of retired residents was part of that, she added.

It began with a simple activity. Bonnet and Clarke arranged to show a Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movie at the Baltimore Museum of Art. They distributed fliers to churches and the neighborhoods.