Action in Maturity to mark 40th anniversary

"The BMA theater was packed," Bonnet said, a note of pride in her voice even four decades later.

Spurred by their success, a newly-formed seniors committee rounded up churches to serve as meeting places and began planning activities, lunches, movies, lectures — anything that would pique the interest of retirees and get them out of their houses.

Neighborhood support helped the organization flourish. Johns Hopkins University provided financial support and a staff member served on the board. Churches, including Friends Meeting House, University Baptist, and a now-closed church at 4100 Roland Ave., provided the cornerstones. They enabled residents to meet near their homes, instead of traveling to a senior center outside of their community

"Each center was very different," with different interests and needs.

"The churches really supported our activities and we didn't have to pay rent," Bonnet recalled.

With the passage of Title III of the Older Americans Act in 1973, the seniors committee received funding from Baltimore City's Office on Aging and, at the suggestion of member Edith Menkel, gave themselves the name Action in Maturity. Then they hired their first director.

"It really was (Bonnet's) brainchild," said Briscoe, in her fifth year as executive director of AIM. "It was the future of the delivery of senior services."

Get on the bus

They quickly recognized the need for transportation and got to work buying an eight-seat mini-bus, according to both Bonnet and Clarke. The fare was 10 cents.

"There wasn't any way to travel around the Homewood area to shop or go to the doctor's office," Clarke said.

"It was simple and low-key," Bonnet said. And it was an instant hit.

"You could count on it," Clarke said.

Transportation remains an essential service.

"That's the part that has endured," Clarke said. "The need has increased."

About half of AIM's members rely on its three buses — soon to be four, Briscoe said. All are wheelchair accessible.

No other community has been able to replicate the program, Clarke said.

"It's very difficult to run a transportation system," she said. "But it's well worth it because it keeps people independent."

As the demographics changed, so did AIM.

AIM became independent of the Homewood association in 1992 and expanded its borders to include more of north Baltimore. It grew again after receiving government grants in 2010 and 2012, according to Briscoe.

AIM now serves about 35-40 percent of the city area, Briscoe said.

Services have expanded, too. While there are still trips and book clubs, a new focus is social services — everything from help with applications for Medicare Part D to income tax returns to twice-monthly health programs to deliveries of fresh produce and even free cleaning supplies from Kathryn's Kloset, a Lutheran ministry.

"That's a big part of our outreach. It builds trust," Briscoe said. Once a relationship is established, reserved seniors are more likely to ask about other services, she said.

Joint venture

AIM's newest project is a joint venture with Keswick Multi-Care Center and MedStar Health, which owns Union Memorial Hospital. Prompted by the Affordable Care Act, they will work together to help seniors transition back to living at home after hospital and rehab stays, Briscoe said. The goal is to avoid return visits to the hospital, she said. The project will be launched at the May 2 celebration — which will also mark Keswick's 130th anniversary.

AIM continues to attract members from around north Baltimore.

"We've got the whole spectrum," Briscoe said. Residents of the Ambassador and Colonnade apartments belong to a book club. Roland Park Place residents take the bus to classes at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Once a month, members enjoy a free lunch. There will be a Mother's Day tea in May and Father's Day lunch in June.

Something new is always going on at AIM — while the original ideas endure. The shopping bus is still going strong, picking up people from every neighborhood in the service area.

"They all have the same purpose, to get the shopping done," Briscoe said.