A caterer kindly identified the quickly disappearing gravy as red pepper sauce.
Note by note, a concert of caring reached a crescendo as retired couple Ted and Aileene Asprodites won the Perry Myers Humanitarian Award during the Caring Place’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet.
The highlight of the evening came when the Asprodites couple received the event’s highest award. Before the plaque was presented, notes from fellow volunteers about the couple were read to the crowd by volunteer manager Terri Williams.
Phrases described the Asproditeses as constantly demonstrating a Christ-like attitude; helpful to all; doing what needs to be done with a smile; having great senses of humor; being caring and friendly; being the hardest working; being versatile; working before being asked and being helpful to all.
“They are a wonderful example,” Williams said, “of how the Lord can use us in retirement.”
Reba Terry, executive director of The Caring Place, introduced the banquet’s guest speaker, Debra Conner.
Conner has been married to Ray Conner for 39 years, is the mother of two and grandmother of two. Born in Illinois, her family moved to Tennessee in 1969. Conner began volunteering as a tutor and trainer at Opportunity for Adult Reading in 1982.
She completed several more years in the literacy program, working with students, volunteers and staff members on shared goals. She retired in 2009 from the newly named Learning Center for Adults and Children.
She spends much of her time now with her grandchildren, elderly parents and traveling with her husband. She is also active in the community, serving on boards and projects that range from BICC to Cleveland Weed and Seed Initiative.
During her presentation, Conner emphasized the need for volunteers, noting “volunteers are plentiful in heaven, but scarce here.”
“Giving care to those in need is a ministry,” she said. She quoted former first lady Barbara Bush, who said “volunteering opens our minds and hearts to those in great need.”
Conner noted even after volunteering many hours of their time, 44 percent of the volunteers also make financial donations to the cause of helping others.
“Anne Frank said nobody gets poor by giving,” Conner related.
She also recalled the words of Christian author C.S. Lewis, who said “nothing you have not given away is truly yours.”
Conner pointed out many of those who donate food, clothing and time to The Caring Place are Christians and often they give anonymously. She noted the apostle Paul’s admonishment to the Corinthians, when he encouraged them to “excel in giving.”
“We’ve been blessed,” Conner said.
She added a response to being blessed is the desire to bless others.
“We live longer and we live more satisfied lives if we give,” she added.
Giving “combats loneliness and mild depression,” she explained. “And sometimes, it’s just the right thing to do.”
Toward the end of her presentation, Conner quoted writer Lewis Carroll, who believed “all that’s worth doing is done for others.”
During the event, certificates for times of service were presented to many Caring Place volunteers, including Jan O’ Bannon; Alisa Miksa; Louise Guinn; Mary Fisher; John Williams; Patty Callaway; Linda D’Armond; Scott and Carolyn Arnold; Mary Alice Usery; Synthia Cain; Jim and Betty Baldree; Boyd Veleta; Lester and Joyce Haar and Joan Thompson.
The Caring Place board of directors includes the Rev. Cliff Hudson, chairman; Dr. Dewayne Thompson, vice chairman; Tom Harris, secretary-treasurer; Beth Bird; Margo Fitzgerald; Coleman Foss; Don Coff; Bob Hardin; Ingrid Hart; Rafael Lastra; Mike Seago and Lou Ann Wright.
Ted Asprodites seemed to sum up the caring atmosphere and the service theme of the banquet when he thankfully, but self-effacingly commented after winning the Humanitarian Award with his wife: “We shouldn’t get an award for serving. Jesus said we’re here to serve.”
With its “A Symphony of Service” theme, the well-attended event was held Friday night at Peerless Road Church, a ministry of the Church of God of Prophecy.
The room, strikingly decorated by LaGenna Betts with a musical theme in black and white with musical instruments as centerpieces and accents of spiraling silvery and black ribbons, greeted guests as they milled about then lined up for a banquet of chicken with the savory red pepper sauce, smoky-tasting green beans, whipped potatoes, salad with various dressings, and desserts that included chocolate, black cherry, strawberry and New York style cheesecake, along with water and iced tea.
Each table recognized different aspects of The Caring Place ministry through carefully placed cards denoting prayer support, clothing sorting, food pick-up, food bagging, staff support, relationship building and food and clothing donations.
Fitting with the event’s musical theme and harmony of caring action, violinist Sarah Ringer, a Lee University and Covenant College faculty member who teaches music theory and string techniques, entertained the crowd with pieces by the composer Bach, as well as the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.”
Ringer also works as a volunteer at The Caring Place, taking registrar duties each Friday.