by Diana Cook
Never let it be said that you can get too old to dress up for Halloween - at least not around the senior citizens who meet for lunch in Phoenix. On Wednesday, Oct. 26, in fact, it was the very thing to do. With their own preparations filling the days before, mid-week brought a Halloween party full of tricks, treats and laughter to the Phoenix Dining and Activity Center, and a costume contest to boot.
Not ones to skip on the decorations, little goblins had obviously been hard at work. There were streamers and ghosts hanging from the ceiling and tables covered in orange, green and black, adorned with all manner of spiders and other plastic creepy crawlies.
Many of the seniors had, in fact, come in costume. Site manager, Arlene Slaski, sported a red dress and cape, with a pin that read, “Not so little Red Riding Hood”.... Then there was the pirate, the pumpkin, the lobster, Minnie Pearl, The Phantom (of the Opera), Pocahantus, a witch or two, and some creative combinations as well.
As everyone picked their places , snacks and punch served to jumpstart the senior party crowd, who giggled and pointed just like youngsters do on Halloween every year. Diana Gardiner played a few spooky songs on guitar for entertainment before a few special activities came up on the program.
Special guests had come in from Oswego County Opportunities to join in the fun and make a home-spun video of dining center experiences around the area. Chris Parks, volunteer coordinator at OCO and Bridget Dolbear, program coordinator for OCO seniors, got the whole place clapping when they arrived - waddling down the hallway.
The two had come as matching Jelly Belly bean bags (multi-colored balloon jelly beans surrounded them contained by a clear bag). And their labels set the philosophical stage .... Made of “Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice”, Serving Size - 1 large hug; Servings per container - Limitless”.
Slaski also pegged them to stick around after the photo and video moments to act as judges for the costume contest.... which they whispered and struggled over for several minutes before announcing the winners.
Although it was a tough choice, said the two (who wanted to give prizes to everybody), first place went to the Pirate with parrot (Sharon). Second place went to Betty but came with a slight question ... ‘For that one ... what is she ? Is she a devil, is she a pumpkin, is she a skeleton ... we really don’t know - but it works’, they said. And third place went to Shirley, be-decked with glittery mask, a wild-purple-polka-dotted hat and boa over her black dress. Each winner had a chance to pick their prize ... a gift card from Nice ‘N’Easy, a basket with household products, or an Italian dinner basket.
The meal fit right in with comfort foods of autumn - serving up country fried steak with a cream gravy, carrots, sweet potatoes and applesauce. Slaski led everyone in a guessing game reading off facts and details about a person from history until someone guessed the right answers which included Lucille Ball, Katherine Hepburn and Henry Ford this week. “They love this game,” she said.
One final contest included guessing the correct number of Candy Corn in a Mason jar, without going over. Although guessed numbers ranged from quite low to over 800, the actual number was 297 - with the winner coming in at 268.
Activities at the Phoenix Dining and Activity Center continue every month with no question that November and December will bring holiday celebrations of their own. Lunch is served every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at noon, with a broad range of activities planned before the actual mealtime. Although closed the Friday of Thanksgiving week, the main menu includes many homespun favorites this month, like ham and scalloped potatoes, chicken and biscuits, beef stroganoff, and country-style pork cutlet, partnered with healthy vegetables, potatoes, rice or noodles, juice, milk and dessert. A Thanksgiving feast will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 16, serving up authentic familiar faire of roast turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.
Slaski only asks that anyone interested in attending meals and activities, call 695-4841, for planning purposes. In addition to good food, milk is served at every meal, with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and lemonade always available. Although no one is turned away since the center is designed to help feed local seniors and offer social interaction on a frequent basis, there is a suggested donation for lunch of $2.50 per meal, for those age 60 and over, and $4.16 for those under age 60.
Located in the downstairs dining room at the First Congregational - United Church of Christ - 43 Bridge St. - and serving almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Dining and Activity Center welcomes any and all who wish to enjoy a relaxed meal - sometimes sprinkled with both practical information as well as silly times together.
Fall may be moving on by, with winter on its way, but at the Phoenix Dining and Activity Center, social time and activities are always on the agenda to keep local residents out and moving. One week at a time, with all manner of games, parties and just friendly meal-times together around a table, the center takes those who enter in on a journey toward fun, friends and the promise of good times ahead.
Photo Caption: Winners were (from left) Shirley, Sharon, and Betty who made off with baskets of loot.