The J. Charley Griswell Senior Center tried something new on Monday, as a way of recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month and encouraging more people of Hispanic descent in county to join the center.
The seniors there launched its first “Hispanic Heritage Celebration,” said Melissa Myers-Bristol, the center’s program coordinator.
“We have such a diverse group of seniors, and we felt that it would be great to show something a little different, so our seniors could experience what it’s like for the Hispanic culture,” said Myers-Bristol.
The festivities, replete with music, food, dancing, trivia games, and a slideshow presentation that showcased the accomplishments of Hispanic and Latin American peoples, were held in the center’s dining hall.
Romona DeLeon, a volunteer at the center, who also teaches Spanish classes, spearheaded the event. She said she got the idea after the center held a Korean Festival earlier.
“[I thought], you know, we need to do something Latino,” she said, “After all, it is Hispanic Heritage Month. They [staff members] said go for it–– you’re in charge,” she said jovially.
Once she got approval, she said, the wheels in her head began turning out ideas, and in a month’s time, it all came together.
DeLeon said much of the success of the event, which the seniors in attendance clearly seemed to enjoy, was due to sponsors, community members, and her co-workers, who donated supplies and time to make sure the program went off without a hitch.
“I approached the subject with several members, and they said, ‘Romona, we’re in, and we’ll do whatever you want,’” she said.
Diana Myers, 56, who was one of those enjoying the festivities Monday, said she loves everything about the Hispanic culture. “I love the food and I love the language,” said Myers. “It’s such a beautiful culture.”
During the celebration, the center’s Zumba instructor, Regina Cannan, taught the audience how to do the Merengue –– a dance which originated in the Dominican Republic, she said.
Diana Myers said the dance lesson was one of the highlights for her. For DeLeon, the audience participation was what satisfied her most, but she did say she was quite fond of the song-and-dance performance by a duo known as Najuma and Oreatha, whose song selection was “Angelitos Negros,” which means “little black angels,” said DeLeon.
Her hope, she added, is that this celebration will encourage more Latinos to join the center. “We don’t have a lot of Latinos, who are members,” she said, “and we hope to change that one day.”
Bristol said this will be an on-going event for the center, and she can’t wait to start planning for next year’s celebration. “We are all here together to celebrate something that’s great and wonderful,” she said. “We’re one group of all different races and all variety of cultures.”