By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette — Shelley and Thomas Collins III were only together for a couple of years. But, what a couple of years they were.
The pair met in 2007 at a monthly game night held by the Singles Experience, a Niagara region social club for singles.
“He came on his 65th birthday and I was so impressed by that” Shelley recalled. “At 65 years old he came to a strange place to meet new people. How great is that?”
The pair became a couple after one of the regular singles dances. They traveled more than 12,000 miles on his trike motorcycle. Everyone in the group was invited to the wedding in 2009. Members later attended his funeral when he lost his battle to cancer that same year.
Regardless of the loss, Shelley is grateful for the time she had with her second husband, after being alone for 18 years. “I tell everybody I feel so fortunate to have had someone to love and someone to love me back,” she said
Funny thing, though. The singles group is not so much about meeting someone to marry. During a recent gathering at Tim Horton’s on Military Road, the quartet that runs the 33-year-old social club, noted that the friendships have changed their lives.
“I have found the best friends I’ve ever had in my life in this club,” said Pat Velky, the club vice president.
The club is open to all singles, though membership is largely people who are 40 and older. Events, however, are open to married couples as well, largely because Shelley and Tom aren’t the only couple who met as members and who were reluctant to quit attending after they wed.
Events include parties, dinners and regular dances that feature music from the 60s and 70s. There’s also game night with poker and board games, which club secretary Donna Toni hosts every other month at her home.
There is a regular “Meet and Greet” the first Wednesday of the month at the Tim Horton’s at 8500 Niagara Falls Blvd., for people would like to know more about joining. The ladies put a sign up on a couple of tables and welcome everyone to sit down for coffee and conversation.
The women know that there are people who would like to attend but who don’t feel comfortable or safe doing so, and they just want to get the word out that making the effort is worth the time.
“I knew about the group for 30 years before I had the courage to go,” said Bobbie Harper of Lockport, who is now the group’s president.
“It totally enriched my life,” added Velky. “My kids joke that I have a better social life than they do.”
Contact Features Editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.
IF YOU GO WHAT: Singles Experience WHAT: Activities for singles from monthly dances to game nights, to "meet and greets." WHERE: The next dance is March 15 at the Buff Club, 2565 Young St. An ice cream social and membership meeting is at 2 p.m. March 24. FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 298-5557 or 783-1778.