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Chapter Spotlight: Myrtle Beach

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The Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area, with its sixty miles of beaches and warm climate, is a combination resort and retirement destination. Many older gay men retire here not knowing anyone. Since 2007, Prime Timers has provided an instant network of friends they can enjoy being with who have had similar life experiences. Just as other chapters do, we include couples and singles from all walks of life.

There are two ways most newcomers find us. One is word-of-mouth. If you have an active, functioning club, your members will help spread the word to new guys they meet.

The other important tool is our website, which we set up using the Worldwide template and the assistance of Worldwide webmaster Tom Hammond. Three of us took the training on how to keep the website up to date. That is essential. A tired, out-of-date website gives the impression of a tired, out-of-date club.

Our site includes contact buttons that shoot inquiry emails to the appropriate officers and activities chairmen (without revealing our members' names or email addresses). Most of the website inquiries come to me as President, and as you can imagine, some of the guys who contact us are looking for a hook-up group. I let them know upfront that is not what Prime Timers is. They usually get the message when they ask about our "adult activities" and I reply with our schedule for bocce, bowling, and canasta.

We are a very active chapter, providing a dozen or so "adult activities" each month, ranging from dining out and happy hour to the aforementioned bocce, bowling, and canasta. Our monthly social event may be anything from a visit to a museum to us locals doing touristy things like playing miniature golf or riding the Myrtle Beach Skywheel. Each activity is organized by its own chairman. The purpose is to provide an opportunity to enjoy each other's company and, most important, laugh together. We seem to laugh a lot whatever we're doing.

One of our most important members is our Friendship Committee chairman. He mails greeting cards to every member celebrating birthdays or anniversaries or suffering an illness or the loss of a partner or close family member. He also maintains our volunteer list of guys willing to assist other members with transportation to doctor's visits or medical procedures.

Our membership hovers around 50-60, with about thirty very active members. Instead of a separate board meeting, we have a monthly membership meeting on the first Tuesday, where the various activity chairmen set out their schedules for the rest of the month and other necessary business is transacted. Input from the members is encouraged, communication stays open, and everyone who wants to be involved can be.

Our secretary emails the minutes to all members shortly after the membership meeting so that everyone knows what is going on. We find this to be more efficient and timely than repackaging the same information into a newsletter. Then, a few days before each activity, we send email reminders to all.

Our chapter has a long history of charitable giving, particularly to organizations dealing with HIV and those serving seniors, homeless LGBTQ youth, and disadvantaged children. We do not make donations directly to individuals or to religious or political organizations. The Woody Baldwin bequest has enabled us to provide even more assistance. Of course, we also spend some of that money on ourselves, especially on our annual anniversary dinner and our autumn picnic, which are free to the individual members.

In 2016 and 2018, we served as the host chapter for the Carolinas Prime regional event. This October, after considerable planning by representatives from all the Prime Timers chapters in both Carolinas, over 120 men from across the country gathered in Myrtle Beach. But don't wait for some big event to occur. We are happy to welcome any Prime Timer to any of our Chapter's activities whenever you happen to be in the neighborhood.

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