Fish fry and gospel music at Valley senior center

Published 9:30 am Friday, October 6, 2023

VALLEY — On Thursday morning, Valley Senior Center played host to a gospel sing and fish fry. Joining the Valley seniors were senior center participants from Lanett, LaFayette and Beulah. Sid Lockhart was there to cook catfish and chicken for 165 people. Everyone had a grand old time.

Two very special guests were present. Accompanying LaFayette Senior Center Manager Alfredia Silmon and her group was Mary Frances Sims, who is 102 years of age. With the Lanett group was Lula Roberts. She celebrated birthday number 107 in August. Both are in exceptionally good health given their age.

The Donald Perry Williams Activity Room was a packed place for the Thursday morning get together. Almost every seat was filled at four tables that just about went from one end of the room to the other.

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State officials present included Alabama Department of Senior Services (ADSS) Board Chairman Ray Edwards and Scott Stabler, who was there representing ADSS Director Jean Brown. Also present were Michael Morrison of the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, which administers the region’s Aging & Resource Center, State Senator Randy Price and State Rep. Debbie Wood.

Speaking to the crowd from a lectern, Edwards thanked Price, Wood and State Rep. Bob Fincher for their help in getting a total of 368 weather radios for seniors in the east-central Alabama region. As part of a pilot program they have been distributed free of charge to seniors in Valley, Lanett, LaFayette, Beulah, Randolph and Clay counties.

“We also want to thank Newby Cosby,” Edwards said. “He helped us with the funding.”

The radios are battery operated and easy to use. They come on automatically when there’s dangerous weather on the way.

“I am glad to see the Beulah seniors here today,” Edwards added. “We’d like to adopt you into the Chambers County senior family.”

Stabler thanked the seniors present for what they have done for their community, county and state over the course of their lifetimes. “Jean Brown and our board members work hard to make sure our Alabama seniors are treated right,” he said.

Morrison thanked Edwards for what he does for seniors as the ADSS board chairman. “He is a very dedicated and involved person,” he said. “He’s non stop. He is always calling me with ideas of what we can do for the seniors in our district.”

The Anniston-based planning agency covers a 10-county region including Chambers, Tallapoosa, Coosa, Talladega, Clay. Randolph, Calhoun, Cleburne, Cherokee and Etowah counties.

“I’m so thankful to see Lula Roberts here today,” he said. “She may be 107, but she doesn’t look a day older than 50. It’s also good to see Mary Frances Sims. She’s 102. We thank God for them and for all of you.”

Those comments drew a loud round of applause.

“I’ve always admired Ray and now I have his hair,” Debbie Wood joked. “God gives each one of us a purpose in life. Ray’s calling is to work on behalf of senior citizens, and he has been successful in that. It’s really special to meet people who are past 100. Some people today don’t even get through their twenties.”

LaFayette Council Member thanked Edwards on having taken him under his wing and taught him the ropes of public service.

“I’m thankful for our friendship with you and Miss Jackie,” Commissioner Debra Riley said to Edwards. “We appreciate our state senator and our state representative being here today. If we ask them to help us with something they are on it right away and do their best for us. We appreciate that.”

Wood thanked Senator Price on having been great to work with. “It’s not like that with some legislative delegations,” she said. “Sometimes there are senators and representatives serving the same areas who have different agendas and don’t work well together.”

Price, who had to leave early to be at some committee meetings Thursday afternoon, said that he loved being among so many seniors. “I had a difficult experience with Covid several years ago,” he said. “It gave me a greater appreciation for being healthy. God is good, and prayer is a wonderful thing. Things are good in our state right now, and let me tell you I really enjoy working with Debbie Wood and Bob Fincher. We have a delegation that wants to do what’s best for our citizens.”

The gospel music was much enjoyed by the seniors. There was some clapping, foot patting and singing along during performances by the Old Rugged  Cross, Wayne Belcher and the John Flournoy family.

Members of the Old Rugged Cross include Steve Baggett, keyboards and lead singer; wife Jill Baggett, backup vocals; Jeff Conway on drums, lead guitar and vocalist Curtis Jones and bass guitar and vocalist Vic Smith.

They sang such well-known songs as “I Saw the Light,” “Amazing Grace,” “Have a Little Talk With Jesus,” “The Circle Won’t Be Broken,” “We Shall Not Be Moved” and the Lee Greenwood classic “I’m Proud to be an American.”

Everyone enjoyed Wayne Belcher’s rendition of “I’m Just a Sinner Saved by Grace.” John Flournoy and family just about blew the roof off the place with some lively old-time gospel sounds.

Flournoy drives a bus for the senior center. Members of his group include his brother Anthony Flournoy, sister Evangelist Jackie Potts, sister Valerie Billingsley and daughter Santrice Flournoy. Bishop Winston Fannings did a great job on the keyboards and nephew Terrence Flournoy was good on the drums.

Their singing brought some seniors to their feet, singing and clapping along with them as they sang “Thank You, God, For What You Do,” “I Made It Through the Storm,” and “Oh God, You Have Been So Good to Me.”

Valley Senior Center Manager Jaclyn and Parks & Recreation Director Laurie Blount took care of many details to make everything come off without a hitch.

Accompanying their senior groups were senior center managers Sandra Thornton of Lanett, Alfredia Silmon of LaFayette and Carolyn Davis of Beulah.