Single Marines bring holiday cheer to local seniors

7 Dec 2001 | Sgt. Sharon M. Allen

Single Marine Program members at Marine Corps Combat Service Support School's Personnel Administration and Legal Services School (PA school) spent their Friday Night recently at Britt Haven of Onslow, a home for elderly care.

With a mixture of music that would appeal to many generations, Marines and their dates 'got down' on the dance floor showing off their moves.

"This is a really great program," said Ann Starr, Britt Haven's administrator.  "The residents talk about the event for weeks in advance, and it appears that the Marines enjoy it as much as the residents do."

For more than five years, Marines from the area have attended the annual senior prom held at Britt Haven.  Starr said that after the annual prom in May this year, the residents began inquiring when the next event would be held.  They were greatly disappointed when they found out they had to wait a whole year for another one, so the idea was sparked to hold a Christmas dance.  PA school students were more than ready to support the event.

"My friends and I really wanted to participate," said Pfc. Christopher A. Koci, a Detroit native.  "I thought about what I would want when I am older.  I would want someone to spend time with me, and it doesn't have to be family.  I would want someone to just sit and talk, and do the same thing I am doing now."

Koci said his mother is the director of "Mary's Children", a Catholic program helping the handicap and elderly, which has inspired him to give and have an appreciation for the needs of others.

"I'm having a really good time.  This event is a good chance for Marines to share their time and give to the community," added Koci.  "It gives me a warm feeling in my heart.  Sure, we could have done a lot of other things with our Friday night, but this is much more important."

After arriving at the home, Marines were paired up with a date for the evening.  Together, Marines and their dates dined and danced the night away.  Starr said one man requested that he have four female Marines escort him to the prom.  His wish was their command, as the evening was meant to treat the residents like Cinderella and knights in shining armor.

"The Marines really give us excellent support," said Jacki Downing, an employee with Britt Haven.  "Anything I need I just call up Cpl. Vein at PA school."
Downing said Marines from various units help out the home throughout the year with many events, including a Fourth of July cookout and other social functions.

A few weeks prior to the dance, various thrift stores donated dresses for the women, and a local drycleaning business cleaned the dresses for free.  Residents make a day out of the event by starting early in the day with painting nails, applying makeup and hair styling, and employees made corsages for dance-goers. Marines attend the event in either their dress blue or service alpha uniform.

"We are really happy with the turnout," added Starr.  "Marines have really made a difference."

Starr gave the example of one gentleman, who generally refuses to get out of his wheel chair and walk, but several Marines helped him up, and he spent four dances with one female Marine; cheek-to-cheek with a grin on his face.

Although many residents were in wheel chairs, it didn't stop Marines from spinning them and finding other ways to groove.  Britt Haven employees said they were pleased with how the event turned out and they knew residents would be talking about it for weeks to come.