Every Monday at Annie’s Italian Kitchen in Alpharetta, a sizable group of mostly retired men meet for breakfast to socialize, listen to speakers and plot the next activity for the group. The Windward Association of Retired Men is a group of current or former residents of Windward, a private community on Lake Windward. Member Paul Barrow, a semi-retired developer/private banker, describes the group as “essentially a lifestyle organization.” Begun in 1989, WARM has managed to accomplish a lot for the community, but Barrow says, at its core, the group is about friendship, as well as giving back.
Q: What is the Windward community like?
A: Thirty-five years ago, Alpharetta was a sleepy little town when Mobil (now ExxonMobil) came in and built Lake Windward. Windward is a community of 2,400 plus homes developed around that lake. The community has a fairly significant commercial section as well and is headquarters to many Fortune 500 companies.
Q: How did WARM get started?
A: Three guys got together and said, “We want the next chapter of our life to be equally impactful.” When you leave the corporate world behind, you leave behind a lot of the contacts you have known your whole life. The purpose of WARM is to develop new friendships, and remain informed and relevant to friends and community, help where we can and have fun with life.
Q: What kind of things do you do?
A: Each year we have “Make a Difference” projects in service to the community. Early on, we helped Alpharetta grow, working to get the Big Creek Greenway off the ground and attract the YMCA to the area. We have become more active with charitable organizations. Every week, about two dozen of our guys go around to the different grocery stores and pick up bakery items for North Fulton Community Charities. Our members have been delivering Meals on Wheels for over 25 years. Within Windward, we help with the annual Fourth of July celebration, and deliver the yearly directory to all residents.
Q: How many members do you have?
A: We have about 60 members who range in age from 55 to 95. Over the years, we have had retired captains of industry, attorneys, doctors, engineers, service men and even a couple of Air Force generals. Quite a number were corporate execs but we didn’t want a lot of structure. We don’t have officers. There are no dues.
Q: Why no real structure?
A: That was by design. In the corporate world, you have committees for everything and you spend your life in meetings. Our guys want the opposite of that. They want WARM to be free form and free think.
Q: No women?
A: Some of our speakers are women. We have a lot of social events that include our wives. We do a lot with WOW, the Women of Windward, an active social group with planned activities each week.
Q: Can you talk more about staying vital in retirement?
A: Vital is a relative term. A lot of men and women look forward to their retirement. When they get there, they think, “I am a golfer so I’ll play golf five days a week.” Then it becomes once or twice; and then they lose interest. Our group has been able to stir up avenues of interest. If you have an idea, you can usually find some other fellows interested in the same thing.
Q: What have you gotten out of it?
A: The friendships are the real core value. We have had men who have moved away and then moved back just to be with their friends from WARM. The bond that some of these fellows have developed over the years is really amazing.
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The Sunday Conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by email at email@example.com.