Claire and I had a trial "When Swing Was King" presentation at a new place yesterday afternoon and I don't think it could have gone better. The residents really loved it (23 of them) as did the family members present and the staff. We had a lot of complements, a lot of warm thank-yous, and a lot of people asking us to come back soon.
We may do just that. But there are issues involved. You see, because we believe the relational element is particularly important to the ministry of "When Swing Was King," we go to the same facilities every month. That way we are providing more than entertainment, more than memories -- we're establishing ongoing friendships. That breaks down (currently) to presentations at 13 different places. Some are nursing homes, some are assisted living centers, and a couple are independent living senior facilities. And that figure of 13 already represents 3 more places than what we had once decided was our absolute limit!
So how can we consider adding another place? I should say, adding two more places for we're actually doing another trial showing at a facility in Ashland this afternoon.
Here's the answer. We're doing so only because we will probably be dropping a couple of places from our current schedule. Audience numbers are a factor in our deliberations but that's not the most important. Currently we play to groups of six, sixteen, thirty, and one place where the audience ranges from sixty to a hundred. We're appreciated by all of those audiences and we're truly honored to play for all of them. The numbers aren't the main thing for us.
No, the basic reason we're considering dropping 2 or 3 places from our current rota involves a serious lack of support from the facility staff. In most of the places on our schedule, the staff are more than conscientious and kind. They promote "When Swing Was King." They get residents down to the room and are careful to seat them where they can best see and hear the program. They're sometimes even helpful to us in getting our equipment set up. But, most important, they make sure that at least one staff member stays with the group during a presentation so that when a resident needs help or starts to get out of their wheelchair, there is someone qualified, authorized, and "in the know" to provide that help.
Obviously, this last factor isn't a necessity for, say, an independent living facility. But for places where the residents have medical or mobility issues, it's extremely important -- and not just for us, the Vital Signs Board, our insurance agent and lawyer -- but for the residents themselves. And so, I regret to say, because a couple of the places on our current schedule are not looking after their charges as they should, we will most likely be discontinuing our visits there soon.
But this place yesterday was the very picture of involvement, responsibility and enthusiasm. We were warmly welcomed. We were given a lot of help getting set up. Several staff members stayed during the performance and the offices of several others are right across the hallway. Finally, we were graciously thanked by everyone at the program's conclusion.
Very, very nice.
We even experienced a couple of extra delights yesterday in that the afternoon's show was "hosted" by longtime friends Tom & Joan Meradith (Tom was recently appointed the chaplain at this facility) and that Claire met another staff member who she knew when they were kids. You can imagine how sweet it was for Claire (who just had a birthday last week) to be immediately recognized by a gal who hadn't seen Claire since high school. -- "Claire Aylward! Oh my gosh. I knew you as soon as you walked in! How long has it been!"
By the way, here are a couple of notes the Meradiths sent our way afterward. First, from Joan. Denny & Claire - It was a wonderful presentation. You guys put a lot of time and love into it and the residents and staff were so impressed. Plus it is always great to see you guys. Thank you!!
And from Tom. Denny and Claire, I can’t thank you enough for the blessing you brought to our residents here at Brookestone Meadows. They truly were blessed. You both have an amazing ministry with everything God has led you into. May His name be praised.
Like I said, very nice. Who wouldn't want to go back!