by Anna Ferraro
They call her “Miss Daisy.” Her job description: find good folks and take them to good places. Folks like senior citizens (50+) in the area, and places like the Fox Theater, a Cardinals game, an antique crawl, and more. Who’s “Miss Daisy?” We’re glad you asked….
“Miss Daisy” is a 14-passenger van driven by Jean Welch, an employee of Senior Services of Central Illinois (SSCI). Welch shares, “SSCI offers a variety of trips for our seniors who are 50+. Our goal is to provide a quality and affordable trip.” She’s been with them for five years this April, and when it comes to the travel routine, Welch’s got it together
When the trip is bigger or longer than Miss Daisy can handle, the groups go by motor coach – frequenting places like the Hummingbird Haven in northwestern Illinois and the glass blowing shop in Monticello where they make Christmas ornaments. Some fun plans for 2018 include seeing Jay Leno in April at the Paramount Theater in Aurora. Welch shares, “This one should be fun! We will stop for dinner before and then enjoy the show!”
SSCI also does extended trips – so pack your bags, seniors! Welch explains, “Our extended trips, which are usually 3 – 7 days, are either by motor coach or we fly to a particular destination. Upcoming trips by motor coach include [visiting] Washington, DC; Savannah, GA; the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum; [and the] Tennessee Smokey Mountains for Christmas.”
Looking over her past five years with SSOCI, Welch shares that among her traveling groups, she enjoys the “good sense of humor, a common sense of wanting to learn something new from the places we visit, an adventurous spirit, and a generous spirit.”
Welch shared some poignant memories from past trips, like they time they stopped at the Flight 93 site in Pennsylvania. She stated, “I believe everyone was totally humbled by this stop when we saw the exact spot where the plane crashed and looked at the beautiful moving memorial honoring all of those who had perished.”
In addition to such sobering places, Welch added, “We have seen the magnificent rocks in the west – who would ever think that looking at rocks could be beautiful? But after you visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches and so many more exquisite sites, you see the beauty in the rocks – and each one is a different sight.
The senior group also visited the Rose Parade in 2016, where they got to experience “the beautiful colors, smells and excitement of the Rose Parade where thousands upon thousands of flowers, plants and seeds are used in the most unique ways to bring color to life.” Recalling an anecdote from that trip, Welch shared, “One of our stops was at Hollywood and Vine in downtown LA. We were walking one way and a couple came out of a store, I looked at them as they passed and I said, ‘Ray?’ and he turned around. It was my cousin and his wife from St. Louis. They were also at the Rose Parade with another tour company – small world! I hadn’t seen him for a few years and we met up in LA….”
Welch continued, “I think one of the most memorable trips for me was the National Park Trip. Our final stop before we headed back for our last evening together was in Navajo Country where we were delighted and humbled to meet one of the last WWII Code Talkers, Peter McDonald, who shared with us his time as a code talker. This was the icing on the cake for me as my dad was in WWII. An incredible story of an incredible feat.”
In a plug to get seniors signed up for a 2018 trip, Welch shared, “Our first trip for 2018 is in April to Washington, D.C. where we will visit the Smithsonian’s new Museum of African American History & Culture, a tram tour of Arlington Cemetery, the WWII, Vietnam, Lincoln, Korean War memorials, the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Library of Congress, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and much more. Seats on the trip are still available.”
Also, for those looking for something even further away from home, check out the SSCI’s upcoming trip to Eastern Europe in November and the Rose Parade this coming December – “both of which are going to be fabulous trips,” Welch declared.
For information on how you or a loved one can enjoy a day trip, or an extended trip with SSCI, visit www.ssoci.org, and go to the “Activities” tab. Or sign up for Welch’s monthly email on upcoming trips by emailing her at email@example.com. Welch is also available to come speak at meetings, luncheons, groups, etc. about the possible trips and adventures. She can be reached by phone at (217) 528-4035.