By Jay Laurens, Coordinator of Outreach Programs
On November 12th, the activity room at the Lutheran Home at Trinity Oaks was transformed into "LaVille Lumiere" – or "the City of Lights," as Paris is called. This magical transformation was a result of the hard work of Volunteer Catawba and nearly 70 Catawba College student and staff volunteers, who set out to provide the residents of this skilled nursing facility with an evening to remember at the sixth annual Harvest Moon Ball.
Brenda Zimmerman, Activities Director at the Lutheran Home, described the ball as "one of the biggest events at the Lutheran Home each year." She was then quick to add, "If not for the creativity, time, talent and energy of Volunteer Catawba - it would not happen. The dedication of the students over the past six years has been phenomenal. Every single detail, from decorations to entertainment, comes together to create one fantastic evening! Our seniors, for a few short hours, get to feel young again. Hats off to Volunteer Catawba!"
Though the ball commenced at 6:00 p.m. , preparations had begun long before that. Following weeks of planning, recruiting volunteers, securing donated items, and purchasing supplies – it was time to turn the activity room into an outdoor café on the streets of Paris. This was done in convincing fashion, thanks largely to the efforts of Jackie Hodgson (a Student Coordinator for Volunteer Catawba) and her team of select volunteers. Stephanie Taylor (Manager of the Catawba College Bookstore), as well as members of the Gay Straight Alliance Club, labored that morning to set up tables and chairs, hang lights and streamers, and place live plants and silk flowers, which were on loan for the evening from Rufty's Garden Shop and the Catawba College Theatre Department. As the finishing decorative touches were applied to the ballroom, all the activity caught the attention of several residents.
"As we were decorating, several of them peeked into the room to see what was going on. You could sense that their excitement was building. What a great feeling," said Jay Laurens, Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Lilly Center for Vocation and Values.
Later that afternoon, several student volunteers - including the entire Catawba College cheerleading squad - arrived to assist female residents with their hair, make-up, and fingernails. As the ladies received this royal treatment, they smiled with the excitement of high schoolers preparing their first prom!
One of the cheerleaders, Junior Hannah Fisher shared, "I think all of us who volunteered had a great time talking with the ladies and helping them get ready for the ball. They were so pretty! I think we made them feel special, and they certainly made us feel that way too. "
"Our profound appreciation for all that [the students] provided to make the Harvest Moon Ball the huge success it was. The decorating, help with the make up and hair makes the residents feel so special and loved. We heard so many residents commenting about how polite and courteous the students were that night. The Volunteer Catawba Program provides a wonderful inter-generational opportunity that benefits all involved."
B. Johnson, Administrator
Lutheran Home @ Trinity Oaks
Later, the female residents could be found in the hallways of the Lutheran Home, proudly showing off their colorful evening dresses and eagerly awaiting the start of the ball. They were soon joined by the very handsome male residents of the facility, several wearing suits and even tuxedos.
It wasn't long until the sounds of the 17-piece Salisbury Swing Band, directed by Dr. Steve Etters, could be heard throughout the facility - a sure sign that the ball was about to begin. Dr. Etters proudly shared that the band has provided the musical entertainment for the Harvest Moon Ball since its inception. "Our band looks forward to this special event every year," he said. "We love it! All you have to do is tell us the date, and we'll be here!"
The band was fronted vocally by well-known crooner Lonnie Carpenter, an 1978 alumnus of Catawba College. Together they helped transport the residents of the Lutheran Home to a different time and place, inspiring them to reminisce of days gone by. Later in the evening, in a special tribute to the veterans in attendance, the band played roaring renditions of the fight songs for each branch of the armed services.
As the band played well into the evening, the residents of the Lutheran Home were not lacking in dance partners. The ladies were kept busy by the entire Catawba College baseball team, members of the Dead Athenian Society and the Philomathean Society, and other individual male volunteers who were dressed to impress.
Catawba Baseball Coach Jim Gantt, who regularly visits a friend who resides at the Lutheran Home, was pleased that his baseball players were able to participate in the event. It was obvious that they had a good time too.
Junior Graham Lawing said, "I really enjoyed spending time with the residents. This was great opportunity for them to get out of their rooms and interact socially. I'm glad I got to participate in the Harvest Moon Ball. I think I enjoyed it as much as they did!"
Many of the cheerleaders who had helped with hair and make-up, along with other female volunteers served as willing dance partners for the male residents of the home. Neither walkers nor wheelchairs prevented the enthusiastic residents from grabbing the hand of a young partner and hitting the dance floor.
Mrs. Era Craver, 92 years old, stated that initially she was unsure if she would be able to attend the ball. "I'm getting older, you know. I wasn't sure if I could handle it, but once I heard all the excitement in the halls, I decided I had to get ready. The nurses helped me get on my red dress. I'm so glad I came!"
Shortly after she made these comments, Mrs. Craver's night was about to be made even more memorable. An announcement was made that she had be selected as queen of the ball, and Mr. Joe Saleeby, who was looking quite dapper in a white dinner jacket and black bowtie, was chosen as her king!
With tears of joy in their eyes, the royal couple shared their appreciation. "You folks have truly made my day," said Mr. Saleeby. "Thank you! Thank you all so much," repeated Mrs. Craver again and again.
Clearly, this had been a night to remember for both young and old.
PHOTOS: Harvest Moon Ball 2011