Flu shots mix with fun at Lincoln Halloween party
LINCOLN — Every October for 30 years, organizers at Weathervane Outreach in Lincoln have reached out to seniors (and to whoever walks through the door) to provide a listening ear, good food, a good laugh and a chance to rock an awesome costume at an annual Halloween party.
And, yes, there have also been blood pressure checks at the party since 1991 and flu shots since 1995.
The theme of this year’s party, which was held last Thursday in the United Church of Lincoln, was “The Holidays.” The costumes and decorations celebrated not just Halloween but Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and the Fourth of July, too.
Linda Norton got in the spirit by sporting a black choir robe decorated with vintage postcards celebrating holidays from the 365 days of the year.
“My costume is like my personality — I’m all over the place,” she said good-naturedly.
The party started in 1986, said Lorraine Patterson, who’s been organizing Weathervane events since the group’s inception in he early 1980s. United Church of Lincoln had bought a derelict building near the Lincoln General Store and renovated it for senior housing a few years earlier, and organizers wanted to find more ways to reach out to elderly residents across Lincoln.
Quite sensibly, the group wanted to first know what those residents thought their needs were. So instead of doing a survey or conducting a study or calling folks up on the phone, they held a party.
“When you socialize and get people together, that’s also a time to reach out. And then that’s when we find out what their needs are,” said Patterson, a lifelong Lincoln resident. “Seniors are very private, and so therefore you’ll call them and say, ‘Do you need anything?’ and they’ll say, ‘No, no, no, no.’ But you get them around the table talking and all of a sudden conversation brings out something that is needed and then we find it.”
At its highest attendance levels a decade ago the party drew around 100 people — that was the year after regular sources ran out of flu vaccine. Lately, Patterson said, attendance has been down because it’s now so easy to get a flu shot at so many places. But that doesn’t keep the atmosphere in the basement of the United Church of Lincoln from being any less lively.
“I’m a theme person. Anybody knows I’m a theme person; so this year — ” Patterson gestured around the room and then turns briefly from the interview to welcome another guest.
Noting this year’s theme — “The Holidays” — Patterson dressed as all the money that gets spent on the holidays. United Church of Lincoln Pastor Dave Wood dressed as Arbor Day, in plaid shirt and sturdy woodchuck hat. An Easter bunny and a red devil help served a table laden with all-the-holidays decorated food and drink. There was a Christmas tree, naturally. Red heart cupcakes. Plenty of flags. The Halloween orange trick-or-treat bags were stuffed with Christmas peppermint, an Easter egg filled with jellybeans, and chocolates wrapped in Hanukkah-blue foil with silver stars.
Across from the Christmas tree was a table loaded with door prizes — the special provenance of volunteer Janet Orvis.
“Somebody said, you know, do I need to put in all this? but that’s who I am, so therefore it’s my joy to do it,” Patterson said.
Folks came in, loaded up on food and drink, and sat and chatted. In another room, a group played cribbage, and in another room, cards.
Back in Patterson’s Sunday school classroom (decorated with wild animals and bible verses in celebration of this year’s theme of “Wild Kingdom, God’s Kingdom”) a nurse from Addison County Home Health and Hospice administered flu shots and blood pressure checks.
In addition to the Halloween party and flu clinic, Weathervane Outreach, made up of about 10 Lincoln volunteers, sometimes holds sugar-on-snow parties and adopt-a-grandparent events, collaborates with students at Lincoln Community School to make special occasion cards that will be delivered to Lincoln seniors, and makes calls to check on older residents after power outages and extreme weather events.
“You hear that Lincoln is a beautiful community that takes care of themselves,” said Patterson. “Everybody pulling together. That’s the spirit of this.”
BRISTOL NURSE SHELLY Cousino gives a flu shot to Linda Norton during Lincoln’s annual flu clinic and Halloween party at the United Church of Lincoln last Thursday. Photo/Trent Campbell
To learn more about senior housing and services through the nonprofit Weathervane United, call Dave Wood, at 453-4280.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].