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Joint effort for hurricane relief at Oak Park

Oak Park Retirement Activity Director Karen Leonard first got the email two weeks ago. Hawthorn, Oak Park’s parent company, wanted to do a huge fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey victims and do it at 60 locations. Leonard shared the idea with the Oak Park residents who embraced the effort. She said, “We just started spreading the word. Our residents grew up at a time when you jumped in to help those in need and that is just what they did.”

Chefs prepared a full breakfast for a $10 donation and at least one non-perishable food item. Resident volunteer Helen Wooten sold $600 worth of tickets on Friday. She said, “I know what they are going through. I lost two houses to hurricanes, one to Hugo at Ocean Isle and another to Charlie in Florida. We needed to do what we can.” The non-perishable food item was headed for Rowan Helping Ministries.

Serving the buffet all-you-could-eat breakfast were Catawba College baseball players and Oak Park residents. Resident and lead dancer Anne Shaver said, “It touches my heart. All of these loving and caring people are here to help. It is overwhelming what the hurricane victims are experiencing. If it happened here, I know they would come here to help us.”

Working beside Shaver was Catawba College junior D.J. Laxton of Ramseur, a pitcher and catcher on the baseball team. Laxton said, “Coach mentioned this event at practice. Salisbury has a habit of helping out and I realized that by coming out this morning, I could do my part.”

Catawba accounting professor Darin Spencer said, “Catawba College has a passion for Salisbury and encourages lines of service through the Lily Center for Vocation and Values and Volunteer Catawba. These young men here today are some of the best and brightest and will leave here enriched for their contribution to Oak Park and the hurricane relief fundraiser. It is hard to see who is having the best time, the residents or the baseball players. But we are all rallying around the cause of hurricane relief.” Spencer credited Catawba College President Brien Lewis, and Doctors Ken Clapp and Michael Bitzer with encouraging servant leadership within the community.

Dancing broke out quite often to the music of Matthew Weaver and Clay Lunsford. Residents, visitors, police officers, firefighters and Catawba students kept the dance floor hot while laughing, smiling and clapping. The firefighters and police officers were special guests of Oak Park. Police officers Michael Morgan and James Hampton and firefighters Jamal Moore, Jarred Hoke and Brianna Mitschele supported the cause. Morgan said, “It is always good to be at community events and get to know our neighbors. We never get calls here so I enjoyed being here today and meeting the residents.” Mitschele added, “We were assigned to Ladder 4 today and therefore able to come by. This is a great opportunity for interaction because it is important to connect while supporting the fundraiser. This was fun.”

Resident Wilbur Boltz enjoyed a front row seat to the music and dancing. He said, “This was important for us to do. These hurricanes have been so devastating and the fires out west, too. I am glad we can help because many of the hurricane victims are still suffering.”

Lynn and Stephen Boswell came from Lukama, N.C., to visit a friend and attend the fundraiser. Lynn said, “We brought canned goods in support of the hurricane victims. This is our first time here. The music is great and we are supporting a worthy cause. What a great way to start the day!” The Boswells attended along with family members, daughter Jennifer and son-in-law Adam plus grandchildren, Emory, Adelyn and Loflin.

Salisbury residents Rochelle and Gene Boratko read the benefit announcement in the Post and felt they needed to attend. Their daughter’s family in Dickinson, Texas, has been dealing with the results of Harvey and its 58 inches of rain. Rochelle said, “Denise and the family stayed upstairs until the boats came, then she and the three kids were taken first to a funeral home and then to a restaurant. Our son-in-law, Mike, stayed at the house because if he left, he wouldn’t have been allowed back for a while. Everyone is back home and safe now but they lost the three cars and the lower floor of the house will require major work. But they have received lots of support, especially from the community and the Red Cross. They looked forward to daily snacks and pudding and a visit with a counselor.”

Supporting the event were the Salisbury Post, Shattershield, Catawba College, WSAT Radio, City of Salisbury Police and Fire departments, and Salisbury Academy.

Leonard was appreciative of the community effort to support the Hurricane Harvey victims and said, “Every dollar of the proceeds will be sent that way immediately. Oak Park’s residents made this event happen along with our partners. Hawthorn Senior Living is going to match our contribution. I think we all enjoyed the event and drew a little closer because of the time spent together.”

Donations will continue to be accepted at Oak Park Retirement. For information or to make a donation, call 704-636-4600 or stop by the Oak Park office at 548 White Oaks Drive, Salisbury.

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