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Nourishing the spirit

Mon., May 12, 2008

More than 150 women were treated to a Mother’s Day lunch hosted by Volunteers of America at the Red Lion Inn at the Park on Sunday, where they also got a chance to dance the Macarena.

The theme at the “I Remember Mama” lunch was Mexican, but what participants said really mattered were not the table decorations, handmade paper-flower corsages, chicken enchiladas, chips and salsa, or gift bags – it was the time spent socializing.

“It is just awesome what they do for mothers who don’t have anywhere else to be today,” said Shonna Cassano, who has attended the luncheon all 10 years it’s been held. “My husband passed away in January. This is my first Mother’s Day without him, and it’s hard.”

A wheelchair user, Cassano lives at Canterbury Court apartments on the South Hill and relied on STA to get to the lunch.

“I wouldn’t want to miss this for the world,” Cassano said. Her six stepchildren take good care of her, she said, but she didn’t have any plans for Mother’s Day.

“It really makes you feel special that they do so much for you,” Cassano said, adding that she wouldn’t open her gift bag until she got home. “There are always some really nice things in there.”

Volunteers of America works closely with managers of senior and low-income housing to identify women who may be alone on Mother’s Day and invite them to the luncheon.

“A lot of the women here today lead a very isolated life,” said Sarah Howard, communications director with VOA. “They don’t leave their apartments a lot, and it’s not like you have to have kids to be here.”

Verna McCarthy was a first timer.

“This is so elegant you can hardly believe it,” she said. “I have been married to the same man for 32 years, and we don’t have any children. But I have more than 20 nieces and nephews so I don’t feel like I’m cheating.”

More than 50 volunteers work throughout the year to plan the lunch.

Dave and Mary Daugharty, of Cheney, have volunteered several times.

“I’ve probably helped with eight of them, and I persuaded him to come,” said Mary Daugharty, elbowing her husband gently. “The women like to have men at the table, and he charms all of them.”

Dave Daugharty said they had arrived early to help set the tables.

“I guess what it is about this day is it makes you feel good,” he said.

Mary Daugharty helps search for goodies for the gift bags, and this year she made the colorful sashes worn by the volunteers.

“Our main purpose is to make sure this is not a lonely day for them,” said Mary Daugharty. “These ladies are needing to talk and have a good time. We help them with that.”

VOA Executive Director Marilee Roloff led everyone in the macarena toward the end of the lunch.

“Last year the theme was Paris, and those of us on the planning committee all got up and did this terrible rendition of the cancan,” Roloff said. “So this year we decided to see if we could get the women here to dance with us.”

Some confusion ensued, but even those who had to remain seated got into the dance.

Then emcee Dave Erickson, of KXLY-TV, handed out door prizes.

“I’d say about one-third of the ladies here today leave with a door prize,” said Howard, as the names were read. “They are so happy. This is such a good-karma event.”


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