Globetrotting ‘Busy Bees’ travel by air, sea and land
Group has 350-person waiting list for these adventures
Ranging in age from 50 to their 90s, these “bees” have a social calendar that keeps them buzzing - literally. They’ve even got a centenarian in activity group at Luling’s Holy Family Catholic Church.
“They’re a wonderful group,” said Lorel Gonzales, who organizes their outings that range from day trips to week-long cruises. “All they want is to get out and be with people.”
Busy Bees has been in operation since 1988, when Father John Finn and Mary Helen Otto Haindle organized the group.
Gonzales joined it in 2010, also looking for something to do after retiring as principal of Hahnville High School at age 52. She joined it because her mother was a member and thought it would be a good way to spend more time with her.
But as Haindle needed more help so increased Gonzales’ role until members dubbed her the “Queen Bee.”
And the bees readily credit her as the major mover on making these trips easy and fun.
“I have more people on the waiting list than in the group,” said Gonzales, who estimated there are 340 people on it. “I have 300 members now, and I can’t handle a bigger group.”
But the ones already in the group are very appreciative.
Brenda Webre, 75, of Luling said she’s so pleased with Busy Bees that she mused, “Whatever Lorel says goes.”
Webre added, “You get to meet so many people you didn’t know and everybody is there for the same reason – an enjoyable trip and the camaraderie. People get together and they just enjoy each other’s company.”
Calling herself one of the do-bees, Webre gladly helps Gonzales with organizing trips, which includes her favorite one to Mount Rushmore. She’s also looking forward to going to Pennsylvania in April.
“Lorel does everything and all you have to do is sign up,” she said. “I think that’s why people love it so much. All they have to do is pack their clothes.”
Pearl Bourgeois, 87, of Luling has been a traveling Busy Bee for five years. Bourgeois has enjoyed the travel so much that she couldn’t choose a favorite trip, and there’s also how this has changed her life.
When Bourgeois retired, she worried about what she’d do with her time, but that has definitely changed.
“With these trips you get to meet so many new people,” she said. “I’m born and raised in Luling yet I’m meeting people from here I didn’t even know. You get to be like a family once you get on these trips with these people.”
Bourgeois also praised Gonzales for making the trips so easy.
“You don’t have time to be lonely,” she said. “I’ve been a widow for 51 years and I advise all to get involved in this. You just get on with your life and don’t worry about your aches and pains.”
Bourgeois added, “We laugh. We have fun. It’s a happy trip.”Des Allemands resident Virgie Naquin is a founding member and happily been on many trips.
So far, her favorite trip was to Niagara Falls.
“You wonder how in the world something could be so great,” said the 91-year-old. “We ended up in the boat behind the falls.”
Naquin said when her husband was alive she went fishing and now she likes to travel. Naquin said she is doing her own thing.
“I like mingling with the people, getting to know your neighbors in the parish,” Naquin said. “If you stay in your own house, you sort of become a hermit. I don’t like to stay too quiet.”
For Naquin, these adventures have been life changing, particularly after working as a nurse until she was 78 years old.
Gonzales’ formula for success is built on following Haindle’s use of Trips Unlimited in Marrero and her addition of Diamond Tours. And then she just asked members what they wanted - and they got it.
The trips are affordable with one charge that includes food and lodge, are well organized and provide the security and convenience an older group needs to venture out into the world.
The Busy Bees also hosts birthday parties at the Luling Living Center, collect toys for the parish’s Toys for Tots program, donate to the needy, collect canned and dry foods for the food bank and toiletries for the battered women’s shelter.
Gonzales also is especially pleased that many of the group members have made lasting friends on these trips and group projects.
But she also mused about what she has come to know is a critical attraction on the trips: “Everything revolves around lunch and especially dessert. They love their sweets.”
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