A year ago, who would have anticipated all that we have been through in the last nine months? In January 2020, we were busy with Taste of OLLI, excited about the trips we had planned to Spain and Portugal, the Danube, South Africa, etc. and all the courses that were being offered in the spring. Then in March, Covid-19 came and disrupted all our lives. We had to cancel so many excursions, close the centers to you, offer what we could online, and issue refunds for classes that could not continue in a virtual environment. In April, while closing the Litchfield center permanently and moving everything that could fit into the Conway location, we managed to create a summer schedule online to help keep everyone connected and sane as we faced the long months of quarantine. Then, in June, the unimaginable happened. We were told that OLLI was suspended and our department eliminated. With all our staff losing their jobs and Academic and Community Outreach defunct, what choice was there but to retire?
But retirement is so over-rated, and the community needed a lifelong learning program more than ever as we all sheltered in our homes to avoid the virus. The weekend after we were informed about the fate of our department, in a VRBO somewhere near the Pisgah forest, we hatched our plan and even came up with the name, “What’s Next? Senior Adventures in Learning and Travel (SALT).” As we were researching the possibilities, Neighbor to Neighbor approached us and offered a deal we couldn’t refuse. They would develop the technology and seek outside funding if we brought the program, instructors, students, knowledge, and manpower. We agreed to serve as volunteers for a semester, with the idea that we would be onboarded as salaried employees in January.
We are thankful that N2N allowed us to offer a program for the fall of 2020, but the semester did not go as expected. Suffice it to say that we were willing to walk away with nothing and invest over $6,000.00 from our savings to create our own business for 2021 rather than agree to the terms N2N offered on December 14.
So here we are, about to embark on a new adventure of running our own business! We have learned so much in the last month: WordPress and MailChimp; WooCommerce and widgets; Fiverr and Stripe. Our heads are full of new passwords, new processes, and new challenges. At least now, though, we do not have to go through someone else in providing a lifelong learning program for you. We truly believe this arrangement will lead to a better experience for everyone: instructors, volunteers, committee members, and students alike.
How You Can Help
You have been so generous in the past that we hate to have to ask for donations again, but online registration and delivery systems are not cheap. Click below to see the spreadsheet for our initial set up. We also have monthly expenses to keep the site going. Any contribution you can comfortably make will be greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, it is much more complicated to create a non-profit than an LLC, so we had to go with the latter, which means any donations are not tax deductible. (Your fall 2020 contributions, which remained with N2N, are tax deductible, and we are certain they will be put to good use by that organization.)
What’s in it for you?
In addition to knowing that you have helped lifelong learning survive and even prosper in this community, you will also have our sincerest gratitude. And for some, there are tangible benefits as well. We will draw 10 names from the list of donors who contribute to SALT before the semester begins on February 1, 2021. Those 10 lucky folks will each receive a gift from our travels to Sanibel Island. What treasures are in store for you!
The website, wnsalt.com, goes live tomorrow, January 18, 2021. (The catalog is visible there now.) You first purchase a $25 membership for the spring semester by clicking on the “get started” button in the upper right corner. You will add the membership to your cart and then checkout. At that point, you can go to “courses” and fill your cart with every class, club, and virtual excursion that interests you. You can also click on “donate” and add a donation to the cart before you go to checkout. When you click on any individual course, you will see its description, and if you click on “additional information,” you will see the date, time, price, and other pertinent details. At checkout, you will get a receipt listing all the courses that you have purchased. You will be emailed a Zoom link to each course 24 hours before it is scheduled to begin and then again 15 minutes before its start time. Don’t forget to check your spam folder for these emails just in case your computer settings are super sensitive.
Spend some time looking around our website. It is still a work in process, but we think you will like the many new features. By February 1, the homepage will include podcasts and newsletters, more testimonials, and a gallery of photos.