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Group Wants Winter Texans Back in Valley

September 15, 2014 by · Comments Off on Group Wants Winter Texans Back in Valley 

RV park managers who are seeing fewer Winter Texans returning to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas are banding together with a plan, the Valley Morning Star of Harlingen reported.

John Dearinger, whose wife, Ruth, is the manager at VIP La Feria RV Park, said the decline hasn’t been severe, but it has been noticeable.

“We’re trying to send out postcards to just the ones that have been here in the past,” he said. But the park is also using Facebook and its own website.

Dearinger is part of a growing movement that is looking for new and innovative ways to promote the valley to potential Winter Texans.

The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Partnership in Weslaco held a meeting earlier this month to address the problem of decreasing numbers of Winter Texans in the valley. About 25 park managers attended.

They discussed using satellite radio, major airports, travel shows, social media and the Internet to bring more Winter Texans. The aim of the promotional campaign is to reenergize marketing strategies.

Julian Alvarez, president and CEO of the RGV Part-nership, said a number of initiatives are in the works.

For the full story, click here.

Report: Winter Texan Numbers Dropping

August 13, 2014 by · Comments Off on Report: Winter Texan Numbers Dropping 

For decades, the Rio Grande Valley has been a winter refuge for graying guests to kick back, relax and sip margaritas under the sun.

But the heydays for retired short-term residents, dubbed Winter Texans, are gone, according to a recent report from the University of Texas-Pan American’s Business and Tourism Research Center, the Monitor of McAllen reported.

Last year, the Valley lost 33,000 Winter Texans, leaving 100,000 behind, many of whom have migrated south for several years, said the biennial report that surveyed 88 parks and nearly 1,400 people.

Winter Texans who have died, fallen ill or have been deterred by Mexican drug violence helped cause the drop, according to the survey.

Learning of the report’s findings last month prompted local chambers of commerce to join together for a call of action in late July.

“We have been tracking this, knew it was happening and have a plan,” said Nancy Millar, vice president of the McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau, a branch of the local chamber.

Millar said the chamber rounded up more than 200 business leaders to try to find ideas to keep Winter Texans coming — and coming back.

She admitted that businesses relied on word of mouth for years instead of targeted marketing in the Midwest states, where many Winter Texans reside.

Winter Texans spent $710 million last season during the winter months as recreational vehicle parks swelled and bluegrass festivals rolled through the area. That accounts for a more-than-11% drop since 2009-10, when they spent more than $800 million.

For the full story, click here.

RV Parks Ready for Arrival of ‘Winter Texans’

October 15, 2013 by · Comments Off on RV Parks Ready for Arrival of ‘Winter Texans’ 

RV parks in the Rio Grande Valley expect to be full this Winter Texan season, based on a positive outlook from last year.

The Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, reported that a survey of Winter Texans last season, conducted by the University of Texas-Pan American, found that 95.8% planned to return to the Valley this year.

With the Winter Texan season fast approaching, local RV parks are open and ready for their guests. And some Winter Texans have arrived a bit early.

Larry and Sharon Schnulle, from Missouri, have been coming to the Valley for seven years. The couple will be staying for about six months at Sunshine RV Resort in Harlingen.

“I retired and that’s allowed us to come a bit earlier than last year,” Sharon said.

Joe Ellis, from Massachusetts, has been coming to Sunshine RV Park for 13 years. He came down earlier than usual because of the cold weather starting at home, he said. He will stay for about six months.

He said his love of the area stems from the culture of the Valley.

“We love the culture down here. They are very welcoming to us; they welcome us with open arms,” he said.

To read the complete article click here.

Rio Grande Valley Ponders Tourism Drop

February 20, 2013 by · Comments Off on Rio Grande Valley Ponders Tourism Drop 

RV Parks located along the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas are feeling the effects of multiple factors that are cutting into the tourism business this winter.

A tough economy that has shrunk retirement nest eggs has helped cut the number of snowbirds in the Rio Grande Valley this year, Winter Texans said Monday.

Meanwhile, younger retirees in northern states are not spending their golden years on RVs bound for the Sunbelt, they said.

Managers at Park Place Estates RV Resort in Harlingen and First Colony Mobile and RV Park in San Benito said occupancy is down nearly 50% during the winter’s peak months, according to The Coastal Current.

“We’re down all the way around compared to other years,” First Colony’s manager Sally Richardson said about the park where 75 of 149 sites are occupied. “I think other parks are in the same boat. We’re not doing the business this year as we did in the past.”

Researchers at the University of Texas-Pan American are asking Winter Texans to take a new online survey to determine why a newly released bi-annual study shows numbers dropped from a record of 144,000 in 2009-10 to 133,000 in 2011-12. Click here to view the survey.

But the researchers also want to know why younger retirees are not coming here, Penny Simpson, director of the university’s Valley Markets and Tourism Research Center, said.

“The big question is the Baby Boomers and why they’re not traveling or wintering like their parents,” Simpson said.

As the number of Winter Texans dropped, Simpson said, so did their buying power, falling from $803 million in 2009-10 to $751 million in 2011-12.

It’s the first time the university is asking Winter Texans to participate in an online survey, she said.

“It’s designed to find out what they think about the Valley and their park, specifically,” Simpson said. “We want to know what they like in the parks and how we can make changes at the parks to make sure we’re accommodating the needs and wants of the current and future Winter Texans.”

Winter Texans are aging and younger retirees are not replacing them, Simpson said.

The university’s new study shows Winter Texans’ average age has continued to climb, reaching 71.2 years last year, Simpson said.

Winter Texans’ Comments

The drop in occupancy numbers is big news at Valley parks, Winter Texans said.

“You look at some parks and you see quite a few empty lots, which were full when we first came down,” said Regina McInervey, a retired economic development officer from Mokena, Ill., who has wintered at Bit-O-Heaven RV and Mobile Home Park in Donna since 2004.

“I think people are dying off and the younger ones don’t seem to be coming down because they’re working longer,” McInervey said.

Jan Stumbo, a retired print shop worker from Boone, Iowa, said many retirees are not returning to the Valley because they lost much of their retirement nest eggs during the recession.

“My parents came down here and that’s one reason we’re down here,” said Stumbo, who has wintered at Park Place since 2010. “But my son says, ‘I’ll never retire at 65. I’ll work til I’m 75.’”

The Valley’s RV parks offer good amenities and plenty of activities to at-tract retirees to the area, Stumbo said.

“There’s more than enough to do around here,” she said.

But Doris Croasmun said younger retirees stay away from traditional park activities like arts and crafts workshops.

“The younger people seem to be more into going places and seeing things like concerts,” said Croasmun, a housewife from Struthers, Ohio, who has wintered at Park Place since 1995. “They don’t learn crafts from their parents and grandparents. They haven’t picked up on a lot of things we enjoy doing.”

Attendance dropped from 1,800 last year to 2,000 at the Rio Grande Valley Wood Carvers Show in San Juan last month, said Barbara Humphrey, a registered nurse from Illinois who first came to the Valley in 1997.

Humphrey said younger retirees are not spending their winters in RVs.

“The Baby Boomers are afraid to get out and adventure because they don’t have the money,” said Humphrey, another winter resident at Bit-O-Heaven. “They’re used to everything being upscale and high-tech so they stay home.”

The fear of Mexico’s drug violence spilling into the Valley may have kept other retirees away this year, Humphrey said.

“I’m scared to go to Mexico now,” she said. “People might be scared of the Valley.”

High gas prices may have contributed to keeping some retirees home this year, Bruce Nordin, a retired paper factory worker, said. Nordin, who spends the winter at Park Place Estates, said it costs him about $2,400 to drive his RV to and from Cloquet, Minn.

“Times are tough up north — tougher than they are here,” Nordin said as he worked on a wood carving at Park Place’s recreation building.

McInervey said Valley tourism officials should put more marketing dollars in RV trade magazines to attract more retirees from northern states.

“I haven’t seen the ads from here,” McInervey said. “I think the Valley really should advertise. (The cost of living) is so reasonable down here.”

Simpson said budget cuts may have led to a reduction in advertizing aimed at northern markets.

Courtney Junkin, events coordinator at the Harlingen Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the agency advertises in northern markets to attract the next generation of retirees.

She referred further questions to agency Marketing Director Sonny Martinez, who was out of the office and unavailable for comment Monday, she said.

 

TACO: Winter Texan Market Already Booming

November 8, 2012 by · Comments Off on TACO: Winter Texan Market Already Booming 

Campgrounds and RV parks that cater to Winter Texans in South-Central Texas anticipate a stronger winter season than last year, thanks in part to the Eagle Ford shale oil pipeline project, which has brought scores of construction workers into the area, according to a news release from the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).

“Last winter was about the best we’ve ever had and we’re going to be about 20% ahead of that this winter, so we’re looking really good,” said Doug Shearer of Parkview Riverside RV Park in Rio Frio.

In addition to seeing the return of their Winter Texan visitors, campgrounds in the Texas Hill Country and other areas of South-Central Texas are filling up with construction workers involved in the Eagle Ford shale oil project, which is boosting campground occupancies during the fall shoulder season, Shearer said.

Other Hill Country campgrounds and RV parks also anticipate a strong winter season, including Hill Country RV Park & Cottage Rentals in New Braunfels. “We have a waiting list for both RV sites and park model rentals,” said Bryan Kastleman, the park’s manager.

Other parks are similarly upbeat.

“We did well last winter, but we’re doing better this winter,” said Teri Blaschke of Hidden Valley RV Park in Von Ormy. “People are making reservations further in advance, so we’re being able to tell sooner what our vacancies will be. I do have spots here and there for travelers, but our long-term sites are already booked.”

Blaschke added that she is putting in eight new campsites for the winter season and they are already reserved.

Further to the north, La Hacienda RV Resort in Austin is already booked solid for the winter season. “We’ve got a waiting list and we’re turning people away for the 2012-2013 winter market,” said park owner Ken Butschek, who added that his year-to-date revenue is up about 15 percent over last year’s figures.

La Hacienda RV Resort has a mix of sites that are owned by RVers as well as elegant park model cottages that are available for rent. The park also has about 30 sites that are available for overnight use.

“We have a loyal group of repeat Winter Texans. But we’re also seeing a lot of people who are trying out our park models,” Butschek said.

Further east, Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring and Timber Ridge RV Village in Tomball are already booked for the winter season, said Gwen Craig, who co-owns both parks. She said she has waiting lists for her seasonal sites, although she has kept a few overnight sites available for travelers.

“Every year we’ve outperformed the prior year in occupancy and revenue,” she said, adding that this year is again shaping up to be stronger than last year.

Thousand Trails RV Resort at Lake Conroe is also seeing a strong winter season, fueled both by Winter Texans as well as families from Texas that come to the park on weekends to take part in organized activities and special events.

“We’re seeing younger crowds,” said Terry Munoz, resort manager of the 360-site park. “Even during the winter the locals come out on weekends, so long as we have mild weather. We do a lot of themed weekends and activities.”

 

 

 

TACO: City’s Water Rates May Discriminate

April 4, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

TACO supports RV parks in South Texas water fee dispute.

The proposed charge for monthly base water fees charged to mobile homes and fixed RVs in San Benito, Texas, may discriminate against Winter Texans and may constitute age discrimination, the director of an organization that promotes Texas RV parks said Tuesday (April 3).

The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is reviewing the city’s proposal as it considers legal action, Brian Schaeffer, the agency’s executive director, said.

The city’s utility board has proposed charging a base water fee to mobile homes and permanently tied-down RVs, the Brownsville Herald reported.

“I’m still not sure if they can single out a class of customer and implement a surcharge,” Schaeffer said. “It’s not right that you’re attacking a certain class of citizen with this fee.”

But Pete Claudio, chairman of the city’s utility board, said the proposal isn’t discriminatory because the charge applies to all year-round residents and apartment tenants.

“We’re not targeting Winter Texans,” Claudio said.

Schaeffer said the city’s proposal may constitute age discrimination and unjustly targets RV parks.

“The demographics on snowbirds is (age) 55-plus,” Schaeffer said. “I definitely think it’s discriminatory against those folks.”

A base water fee would unjustly target RV parks, Schaeffer said.

“Mobile home parks can show you books and records that (show) they’re the most conservative water users,” Schaeffer said. “That’s the craziness of this thing.”

Officials here have conducted an inventory of the number of mobile homes and fixed RVs within the city limits, but refused to release that information Tuesday after the Valley Morning Star filed a request under the Texas Public Information Act.

“The Public Information Act does not generally require the governmental entity to respond to general questions,” City Attorney Rick Morado said in a written statement. “We are required to provide documentary information that exists in paper or electronic format.”

The city has sparred with RV parks and Winter Texans since October when it passed an ordinance that charged a $10 base water fee to RV park sites, whether occupied or vacant.

In March, city officials suspended the ordinance after RV parks and Winter Texans argued it violated Senate Bill 569 and House Bill 841, which prohibit cities from charging water fees to unmetered RV sites.

City officials decided to charge the monthly $10 base water fee to ease the burden of rising water rates from single-home owners.

Since 2004, the city has raised water rates to help pay a $28.4 million debt for water and sewer improvements.

 

‘Winter Texans’ Begin Annual Trek Elsewhere

March 20, 2012 by · Comments Off on ‘Winter Texans’ Begin Annual Trek Elsewhere 

Meandering past rows of Pinnacles, Hitchhikers, Open Roads and Bounders, Bill Hoffart is home at   Gateway to the Gulf RV Park in Victoria, Texas.

For the past three weeks, the 69-year-old explorer and his wife, Carolyn, who left their home in the Virgin Islands to “stretch out,” have called themselves Winter Texans by way of Victoria, the Victoria Advocate reported.

“There’s no sign of recession or depression,” Hoffart said. “We just feel great being here.”

But as the temperatures warm up, Hoffart feels the itch to drive. He and his wife plan to leave Tuesday morning for Big Bend National Park.

“We’re going to head west, then follow spring north,” Hoffart said.

Ron and Delly Wentz, owners of Gateway to the Gulf RV Park, located on U.S. Highway 59 North, said their busy months are November, January and March.

Typically, couples are packing up and heading back home in time for tax season by the first of April, Ron Wentz, 56, said. Although an early spring in the Midwest drew some Winter Texans home sooner, he said most will stay through till the end.

“There are some people who want to get home as soon as possible, for others, it’s their lifestyle and they want to experience it,” he said.

Delly Wentz, 46, said Victoria’s location makes it a prime base campsite.

It is close enough that Winter Texans can get all the benefits of the valley, or make day trips to Houston, Austin or San Antonio, without getting caught in traffic or trouble, she said.

They are seeing more first-time Winter Texans, mostly Baby Boomers who recently entered retirement, Ron Wentz said.

“They really thrive on doing – getting out to experience something,” he said. “A couple just re-upped because they realized there was more they wanted to see.”

His wife said she thinks the local Winter Texan industry will see more growth.

“I look forward to the day we can be on the other side,” she said.

LaRue Roth, Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau director, said in an email that, for the most part, Winter Texans come to Victoria for daytrips from the Rio Grande Valley or the Rockport/Corpus Christi area.

However, some stay in Victoria as because of its central location.

“One couple from Iowa, who stopped in last week, said they picked Victoria because it was ideally located about two hours from Houston, Corpus, Austin and San Antonio,” Roth said. “They brought their motorcycles along and planned to do day trips to those cities and other smaller towns in the area.”

Jim Goinz, 68, of Bemidji, Minn., has a simple philosophy to surviving northern winters – leave.

He and his girlfriend, Vikki Devich, 60, also of Bemidji, in Victoria, Texas have escaped northern winters together for six years. This was their first in Texas.

They went to Alabama, Florida, Phoenix, trying to find the perfect climate.

“Everywhere we went wasn’t warm enough,” Goinz said.

While sitting under the sun at The PumpHouse Restaurant’s riverside patio in Victoria, the two agreed to come back and stay in Rockport again next year.

“We don’t want to be here in the summertime,” Devich said. “For us, this is the time to be away.”

Goinz said the weather is not the only perk. Because January through March is considered off-season along the Texas coast, they save financially.

Goinz said they found Victoria online and decided to make a day-trip out of it.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “If we don’t see everything we wanted, we’ll come back.”

They plan to make the 1,700-mile trek back home at the end of the month.

“Sometimes I get a little homesick,” Devich said. “But then I remind myself that it’s not warm there.”

 

City May Modify RV Parks’ Water Bills

February 10, 2012 by · Comments Off on City May Modify RV Parks’ Water Bills 

Members of the San Benito, Texas, Utility Board will recommend that the city modify a controversial $10 monthly base water service fee imposed on RV parks for each lot, board members said Thursday (Feb. 9).

But board Chairman Pete Claudio declined to elaborate on how the water fee ordinance could be modified, and City Attorney Rick Morado did not return phone calls about his recommendation on the measure’s legality, the Brownsville Herald reported.

Another board member suggested the ordinance could be suspended until the matter is resolved.

Claudio said the issue has escalated tensions between Winter Texans and the city but he predicts the issue will be resolved soon.

“We had a meeting in executive session (Wednesday) and we went over the language of the law,” Claudio said. “The only thing I could tell you out of executive session is that the decision was made in open session to make a recommendation to the commission to modify the ordinance … to be compliant to state law.”

RV park residents say the water fee ordinance violates state law by charging for every lot, whether occupied or not.

If the City Commission adopts the Utility Board’s recommendation, the controversy should be over soon, Claudio said.

“We don’t want to divulge too much because the commission still has to approve it,” Claudio said. “But as far as our committee, we’ll make a recommendation to the commission, but they still have to approve it.”

Utilities Board member Victor Garza said the present ordinance may be suspended for now.

“We need to make sure it’s in compliance with the state and federal guidelines,” he said. “Local residents and businesses have to pay a base fee plus usage. … We want to do what’s fair for everybody,” Garza said.

The exact wording of the modification is still being worked out by Morado, Claudio said.

It would be prohibitively expensive to require RV lots to have separate water meters for each lot because tap fees would be charged for each site, Claudio said.

“That may be an option that we might consider doing down the road,” he said. “We might want to talk about it.

“But we’re not considering doing that at the moment because that would be pretty expensive for them and for the city.”

City Secretary Lupita Passement said no joint meeting between the Utilities Board and City Commission has yet been scheduled.

Although the issue has become controversial, the threat of Winter Texans boycotting local businesses doesn’t seem to have taken much effect, Claudio said.

“I don’t know if it’s had an effect. I do know that every time I go to Walmart or (to businesses) around here, I still see Winter Texans,” he said.

Rio Grande Valley Parks Feel ‘Winter Texan’ Drop-off

January 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on Rio Grande Valley Parks Feel ‘Winter Texan’ Drop-off 

A lackluster economy, drug violence in Mexico, fewer people retiring early and health concerns have caused a drop in the number of Winter Texans visiting Rio Grande Valley RV parks this season, park managers and residents say.

Numbers are down as much as 25% at many RV parks at the start of the season that runs from January through February, they said, The Monitor reported.

“They were great last year, but this year they’re down,” Barbara North, manager of First Colony Mobile and RV Park in San Benito, said.

First Colony has seen a 15% decrease due to the nation’s tough economy and fear of violence in Mexico, North said.

“The numbers have grown until this year,” she said.

In 2010, the number of Winter Texans reached a record high, with 144,000 driving to the Valley, said Penny Simpson, a professor who researches tourism at the University of Texas-Pan American.

The 2010 season saw numbers slowly rebounding from the slump that followed the

Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, she said. Before 9/11, the numbers had peaked at 143,000.

A summer 2011 survey of 130 Winter Texans hinted numbers could drop about 5% this winter, Simpson said.

“We were trying to get a feel if the numbers were down,” Simpson said.

The survey asked whether health, gas prices, the economy or violence and terrorism would influence Winter Texans’ decision to spend the winter in the Valley, Simpson said.

In her survey, Winter Texans cited health as the top factor behind their decision to stay home this year, Simpson said.

The Winter Texan industry is a major driver of the Valley’s economy, Simpson said, adding that in 2010, Winter Texans pumped $802.5 million into the local economy.

Anita Pearson, manager of Park Place Estates RV Park in Harlingen said, “They’re a little down from what they were last year,” about 5% lower than last year, when the 859-site park was at 85% capacity.

Pearson blamed the drop on a national trend that’s leading Americans to work past the traditional retirement age of 65.

“People are working longer. They’re not retiring as young,” Pearson said. “We’re not getting early retirees because people are not retiring as early as they used to. They’re doing other things, like taking cruises and time shares and not staying in one place for six months.”

Barbara Baumhofer, a retired factory supervisor from Mora, Minn., said hard times and illness among an aging Winter Texan population dropped numbers from 7% to 10% at Victoria Palms Resort in Donna.

Bonnie Klaver said she hasn’t seen as many younger retirees at Texas Trails RV Resort in Pharr.

“The younger people aren’t coming down as much,” said Klaver, a retired farmer from Webster City, Iowa, who has spent 11 winters in the Valley. “They aren’t RVers. They probably don’t have the money to do it yet.”

For decades, the All Valley RV Show has been a top attraction for Winter Texans, but numbers have dropped from peak years in the mid-1990s, when attendance hit about 15,000, said Warren Kininmonth, the event’s chairman.

“This economy is affecting everyone,” said Kininmonth, who said he was counting on numbers to rebound from 8,000 last year. “It’s everywhere.”

‘Snowbirds’ Find Fun, Warmth in Texas Gulf Community

January 4, 2012 by · Comments Off on ‘Snowbirds’ Find Fun, Warmth in Texas Gulf Community 

Aerial view of Rockport, Texas. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Linda Vander Woude spent one winter in Florida – and then headed West.

The prices in popular Fort Myers, Fla., were too high. The crowds were too large. So they looked for an alternative warm destination to flee to when frigid winter descended, the Tulsa World reported.

“We were looking for something cheaper and warm, and we found Rockport,” on the Texas Gulf Coast, the 63-year-old Vander Woude said, settling down for a night of country music and dancing at the Drifters Resort community hall.

The water is not as blue as Florida’s. The winters are slightly less mild. The shopping is not as highfalutin. It’s not nearly as hip as popular spring break destination South Padre Island along the Texas-Mexico border.

But the price is right, the economy is weak and Texans are winning these folks over with Southern charm.

“Here, we’re called Winter Texans. In Florida, we’re snowbirds,” explained Jan Evenson, a Waterloo, Iowa, native who spent 2 1/2 winters in Florida and never felt comfortable.

Evenson, 73, has been coming to Texas for 11 years, though until about six years ago, she and her husband would drive down to “the Valley” – the popular winter destination along Texas’ border with Mexico.

Now, with gas prices rising and the border getting more violent, Evenson and her husband prefer Rockport – one of many small villages along the central portion of the Texas Gulf Coast.

This appears to be the trend, says Ann Vaughan, president and CEO of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Bureau. Port Aransas is about 18 miles and a ferry ride away from Rockport.

Gary Mysorski, director of parks and recreation in Port Aransas, says the number of people participating in his department’s activities has gone up from just over 1,300 in the winter of 2009-10 to 1,700 last winter. Activities range from arts and crafts to catamaran cruises. This year, he even offered one activity before Thanksgiving – usually too early – and it was full.

“Years ago, the city would shut down during the winter … they ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day and then nothing happened. And then as the Winter Texans began coming down, this all changed,” Mysorski said, explaining that winter is now one of the busiest seasons.

Rockport and Fulton, two adjacent towns, have noticed a similar phenomenon, said Diane Probst, president and CEO of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

The towns attract about 5,000 to 8,000 Winter Texans, she said. The entire region, including Corpus Christi, attracts more than 30,000 retirees.

Research shows the impact of their spending.

A 2009 study done by Rockport and Fulton – with a combined population of about 10,000 people – found that some 3,000 people wintered in these towns. Using estimates provided by hotels and RV parks, the chamber estimated they spend about $5.4 million a year there.

And last year, Probst said the towns enjoyed a 10% increase in Winter Texan traffic – and a change in demographic.

“It was a different clientele, not just the person that all they had was their RV,” Probst said. “They want to do more. They want to learn and see and visit and get out and do and be active, not just coming to fish and that’s it. We see them in our restaurants, we see them want to go and explore and get involved and volunteer.”

And so, these towns are rushing to offer more, and different, activities.

The Joint Effort Leisure Ministry (JELM) is a not-for-profit organization housed by the Community Presbyterian Church in Port Aransas. With donations from Winter Texans and local residents, JELM offers a variety of programs and day trips. In the five years Pat Reilly has been the group’s director, she has seen a steady increase.

Participation was so high last year that Reilly has added several trips, including three new birding excursions, to her repertoire of line dancing, bridge and other activities.

“People are telling me that their retirement dollars aren’t going as far as they used to,” said Reilly.

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