Among the animated shoppers and busy merchants striding through the Glendale Galleria these days is a new but little noticed group of energetic senior citizens wearing white- and black-trimmed T-shirts.
These seniors are part of the Galleria Memo Squad, 15 retirees who have become couriers for the shopping center. They go briskly from store to store distributing evaluation forms and surveys for the Galleria's marketing department.
The group meets several needs by giving the participants a chance to exercise, meet people and earn a modest income while helping the Galleria's marketing department communicate with its tenants. Having the team has increased merchants' response on surveys and evaluations, said Nicolette Abernathy, Galleria marketing director.
On Monday and Friday afternoons the team gathers in the Galleria's management offices to assemble packets containing flyers, questionnaires and other materials for distribution.
Then they're off on their rounds, wearing distinctive T-shirts inscribed with their names.
Each participant is also part of the Galleria's Go Getter walking club, Abernathy said. Mall-walking clubs have sprung up throughout the country in recent years, allowing participants the chance to walk in a safe, comfortable and vibrant environment.
Squad members are paid minimum wage and were recruited from the more than 100 members of the walking club. Eight squad members work at any one time, with each bringing communications to an equal number of stores in an assigned area, Abernathy said.
"Usually what we used to do was send out security to do it, but they didn't always have time," Abernathy said. "They would send out one person and there are 262 to 270 merchants and that could take all day or more if they were short of people.
"Security loves it because now they don't have to deal with it," she said.
Jake Jacobson, 78, of Glendale is one of the Memo Squad members who began walking after he retired several years ago. He became a Go Getter shortly after the program started, he said.
Jacobson now averages 700 miles a year but has exceeded that number considerably in the past, he said.
He, like most members, said he participates in the Galleria's walking program for the health benefits, but added that being a memo walker also gives him a chance to socialize.
"This is a small city," said Jacobson, whose is assigned to the area between Buffums and Walden Books.
"We get to meet a lot of people. If they are taking care of a customer, they often stop their work and take care of us, which is quite unusual because the sale is what counts," Jacobson said.
Rose Baptist, 66, of Burbank said participating in the program gives her the satisfaction of working for a few hours although she is retired.
"Doing this I have the feeling that I'm needed, the feeling that I'm accomplishing something," Baptist said. "It gets you all keyed up and it makes you feel good."