Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gamma Pi Hosts Community Seniors at Saturday Afternoon Banquet

A full house at Saturday's program
On Saturday afternoon, June 11, while temperatures outside flirted with 90-degrees, it was warm on the inside of the hearts of close to  100 senior citizens (including some  family) gathered at the Gethsemane United Methodist Church in Capitol Heights. It was the annual Seniors Banquet that the men of Gamma Pi chapter sponsor each June at the church as its way of reaching out to the often-forgotten elderly.

In many African American communities, senior citizens are more economically challenged than their counterparts from other communities and many of them outlive their family and close friends and are sometimes left to fend for themselves with little contact with the outside world.

The Super Chapter's banquet has become a "red letter" day on many Prince George's County seniors' calendars. You would think after more than 20 years of holding the banquet, it would become routine. But every year, the Brothers bring different and new twists to the event, and the atmosphere is always charged. Each year, seniors look forward to it with more and more anticipation and to them, it is like Christmas. One would only have to look at the smiles and laughs spread across the room to know that Gamma Pi was welcomed and embraced. It was also an emotional lift for the seniors, many past 80 years old and struggling with health challenges. In fact, the chapter recognized the oldest woman (95) and oldest man (83) among the audience, both who seemed to be in excellent shape for any age.

Barbara Givens (right) talks to seniors 
For the banquet, Brothers purchased and prepared food on site, waited the seniors' tables, and put on a dynamic program for the seniors that combined the nutritional food with "spiritual food" as well as the everyday "you-need-to-know" information that many seniors appreciate Gamma Pi bringing to their attention each year.  In that regard the program included a stirring sermon on "Raising Your Voice" from keynote speaker and  Gamma Pi's Bro. Rev. Rodney Barnes (video excerpt below), and a presentation on domestic violence and "seniors stalking" from Barbara Givens. She is a local seniors advocate who heads a program in the Bladensburg area. She explained a program that allows elderly persons to "talk through" and "work out" past abuse. Many elderly persons are the target of various kinds of abuse even in their senior years.

Others on the program included Gamma Pi Basileus Bro. Gordon Everett, Second District Chaplain Bro. Dr. Gerald Folsom, Bro. Rev.Tony Lee, Bro. Terry Rogers, who co-chairs Social Action for the chapter, Emcee Bro. Bill Reese and Bro. Dr. George Edwards, who led the music. Bro. Phil Ferguson, a former member of the church who helped put together the program for Gamma Pi for so many years and has now passed on to Omega chapter, was remembered Saturday. The all-Gamma Pi kitchen staff was also recognized headed by Bro. Greg Johnson.

Seniors listening intently
Just to show how much seniors were paying attention yesterday, right at the close of the program after the Benediction had been given, one of the seniors raised a hand and said, "we didn't hear that Omega song." So Bro. Dr. Edwards rose to his feet and quickly assembled the Brothers at the front of the room and the sweet sounds of "Omega Dear" soon filled the place. The seniors were then ready to leave and they went home happy. Gamma Pi never forgets the seniors and the seniors don't forget Gamma Pi.

The Gamma Pi Senior Citizens' Banquet began and was held at the First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover by Gamma Pi’s Founders for a number of years. It was later moved by the late Bro. Ferguson to Gethsemane.

Listen to Gamma Pi Brother William Talbert, who was the lead organizer of yesterday's successful banquet, talk on video about the history of the event and explain why Gamma Pi chapter gives time to seniors in the community:

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