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HandsOn the Community: “Got Game?” Inspires Competitive Camaraderie

January 10, 2012

Jennifer Robbins (third from left) calls out words during a round of Spanish Bingo.

It doesn’t take the skills of a master Clue player to discover that Jennifer Robbins is a board game fanatic. With everything from Hangman and Scrabble to Monopoly and Dominoes in her personal collection, the fun-loving Robbins wears her appreciation of a good game on her sleeve. What’s not as immediately obvious is the fact that she uses her love of board games to make a difference in the lives of some energetic seniors in the Inland Empire.

Each month, Jennifer and a group of fellow game lovers meet at the Portofino Villas Senior Apartments in Pomona to play board games with the complex’s residents through a program they call “Got Game?” The program’s official goals are numerous (to inspire seniors to get out of their apartments, socialize, exercise the strategic parts of their brain, etc.), but Robbins admits that the practical goal is much simpler—“to help the seniors have some fun playing games with each other and with members of the outside community.” To say that the program has been successful in meeting this goal would be an understatement. Since the program began, the “Got Gamers” have brought almost 100 hours of fun to the seniors at the Portofino Villas.

One such senior is Marcel, who has attended each event for roughly the last year. “I go [to Got Game?] every time they come around,” says Marcel. “These other ones around here [Marcel’s neighbors] don’t get out enough. They like to sit around all the time, you know? Not me.” Evelyn, another of the program’s regular seniors, believes that being active and social are both important parts of staying healthy as a senior. As such, she is particularly appreciative of the Got Game? program. “I get to come out and have fun and play games. And I get to see some of the same volunteers I met before and talk to them.”

Marcel, Evelyn, and Jeremy compete to become champion of Sequence.

Many of the volunteers are equally fond of the friendships they’ve developed with the seniors. “When I show up now, a bunch of the seniors come up, say hi, hug me,” says Robbins. “Sometimes they ask to play a game with you specifically.” Jeremy, a long-time volunteer with the program, also loves some of the competitive rivalries he’s developed with seniors like Marcel. When asked to list his favorite parts of the program, Jeremy says “just having fun and playing games” with the seniors is the best part. A quick pause and a few laughs later, however, he remembers to add “beating the seniors at games” to his list.

Got Game? is always looking for fellow board game enthusiasts to join the program. If you like board games and interacting with fun, energetic people, Jennifer hopes you’ll consider joining the group for an afternoon of games and socializing with seniors. Just be aware, she advises, that the people you’ll be playing with defy the stereotypes of typical seniors. “When I tell people I do this,” says Robbins, “they say, ‘Oh, you play with seniors. Is that boring? Seniors—are they, like, 80 years old?’ They don’t know that the seniors are healthy, sharp, fully-functioning individuals. They aren’t 90 years old. They’re competitive, active, outgoing people.”

Whatever your favorite board game may be, you'll find enthusiastic players at Got Game?

If Got Game? sounds like a program you might be interested in, Jennifer’s message to you is simple: “Try it out! It’s fun. It surprised me the first time I tried it out exactly how much fun it was. It’s a great time and it’s really rewarding. I hope to see you there!”

For more information on the Got Game? program, including its exact meeting dates and location, please see the calendar of events on the HandsOn Inland Empire website:

For information on how to to transform your own passion into a volunteer program, please contact Bryan Nakawaki [].

This article is part of an ongoing series of posts highlighting volunteer opportunities in the Inland Empire. Stay tuned for many exciting future installments!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Sharon permalink
    May 7, 2012 7:05 AM

    Great article. Had fun today…

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