Drive-by boost: Church hosts parade for memory-care program participants

NORTH SHELBY – Volunteers and staff from Anchor Community Respite Ministry lined the sidewalk in front of Asbury United Methodist Church on Monday, June 1, eager to greet a special group of visitors with handmade signs and encouraging words.

The memory-care program’s Drive-By Summer Kick-Off Parade gave participants and their caregivers the opportunity to return to the church campus and see many of the volunteers and staff members they hadn’t seen since the coronavirus pandemic started several months ago.

Anchor Program Director Gina McIntyre said the parade idea lent itself to the self-esteem boost and positive atmosphere she and her staff wanted to create for the participants, all while following social distancing guidelines.

“We call it a reverse parade,” McIntyre said, noting the participants and caregivers remained in their cars and drove by the volunteers and staff – many of whom donned festive hats and costume attire and held signs with messages like “We Miss You” and “God Bless You.”

Since its launch in October, Anchor has provided fellowship and stimulation to people who are living with memory loss because of dementia or stroke.

Anchor was operating every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church until the pandemic forced the program to temporarily close.

McIntyre and several others have supplied take-home packets, videos and projects to keep participants involved at home over the last two months.

“We try to stay in touch with them as much as we can,” Congregational Care Director Maggie Dunaway said. “We really do hope at some point to get back up and going.”

Dale Pangman and his wife, Alicia, were among the dozens of volunteers participating in the drive-by parade.

Dale has volunteered with the program almost every week since it started.

“We play balloon volleyball, and the people just love it,” Dale said. “Our choir director comes in, and we sing. We do chair yoga, too.”

Alicia said she has served as a pen pal but wants to volunteer more when the program’s in-person gatherings resume.

Don Wendorf, who plays music at the regular Anchor programs once a month, provided live entertainment during the parade.

Dunaway said the program has space for more participants.

The cost to participate is $40 per day, and scholarships are available.

Care partners can schedule visits or obtain enrollment applications by contacting McIntyre at (205) 529-6353 or gmcintyre@asburyonline.org.

An official reopening date for Anchor has not been announced.

For updates and more information about the program, visit Asburyonline.org/anchor.