At the start of the new year in 1961, seven members of Mrs. West’s Evanston Township High School special education class started the New Year Club for people with disabilities.

On April 9 the club celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Orrington Hotel with a luncheon, dancing and other activities. Many of the 55 members have been with the club for more than 40 years.

Elaine Macejak, the leader of the club for all 50 years, said, “It was one of the best days of my life.” Now 80 years old, Mrs. Macejak recalled how she first joined the club in the summer of 1961.

“My babysitter was the Y’s social programs director, and she told me about the club. The leader was leaving, and she asked me if I would take over. I had two children at the time – one was 3 and the other one not yet 2. I had never done anything like that before,” she said. Eventually, Mrs. Macejak agreed and found skills she never thought she had.

“If you show up you can learn to do what you need to know,” she said about learning how to be a leader. “I’ve missed one day in 50 years, and that was because of illness.”

The club takes members on 10 charter bus trips a year and participates in activities such as chicken bingo and movie nights. Mrs. Macejak said they are looking forward to trips to the Rainforest Café and other places soon.

Mrs. Macejak said being in the club has allowed her to learn new skills. It has been a wonderful experience, she said, adding, “It has made my life.”