Lance Cpl. Nikki M. Fleming
Jet Stream Staff
The Air Station and Marine Aircraft Group 31's Officers' Spouses’ Club hosted the 38th Annual Senior Tea at the Officers' Club here Sunday.
More than 200 local residents gathered for the free event, which featured a traditional English tea complete with drinks, snacks, door prizes and holiday performances by area entertainers.
"This is an annual function we look forward to each year honoring the senior citizens of the community," said Kristine Rowell, president of MCAS Beaufort Officers’ Spouses’ Club. "It is a time to thank all the citizens for all they do to support our service members."
Performances by the Beaufort Belles, Shanklin Sand Dollar Singers, the Beaufort Harbormasters and Victoria Russ contributed Christmas merriment throughout the event, while door prizes donated by squadrons were handed out to the guests.
According to Rowell, each squadron donated a basket of gifts, which were then raffled off during the party.
Montez Hensley, a Tampa resident, traveled with friends to partake in the event. Hensley, one of the lucky guests who took home one of the donated prizes, said it was her first time to the Senior Tea.
“The performances were terrific and heartwarming,” Hensley said. “It was a fun time to be able to be on base around sailors and Marines who are willing to give their time to share this holiday event with us.”
Col. Robert Lanham,the commanding officer of MCAS Beaufort, and Col. Dave Beydler, the commanding officer of MAG-31, along with their spouses, greeted the guests as they entered the club. Marines – both officer and enlisted clad in Dress Blue uniforms - were on hand to escort ladies to their tables while others waited on guests.
“The tea party was beautifully set up,” said Hensley. “I think its absolutely fantastic to be part of this event and be able to show our support to the men and women in the military and have them give back to the community as well.”
The history of the Senior Tea dates back to the late 60s and early 70s, when the Vietnam War was unpopular, service members received very little support from community members. Lynn Schriver, whose husband was the former commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 32 in the late 1960s, had acquired the idea of the Marines getting involved with the community to increase morale and support.
“When we held the first Senior Tea party 38 years ago, we had only 30 guest attend,” said Schriver. “Back then, things were a little different. We had to go through the churches to contact citizens to send out invitations since there were no retirement homes at the time.”
Although the event started off slow, Schriver knew it would grow over the years as it continues.
“It’s outstanding to see the number of people who attend now,” Schriver said, who has recently moved after living in Beaufort for 38 years. “I originally got the idea from a few Army wives who hold their own event. Since their town was similar to the Beaufort community, I figured if the Army could do it, the Marines could do it better.”
Although senior citizens and Fightertown Marines don’t get many chances to interact, the Officers’ Spouses’ Club plans to hold more events like the Senior Tea throughout the year.
“Today’s event was wonderful,” Rowell said. “Everything ran smoothly and everyone enjoyed it. People were overwhelmed with joy. I believe events like this creates goodwill giving back to the community, which gives so much to us. This is only a small token of our appreciation, in which we are going to add more to our calendars.”
For the Air Station, it may seem that it’s only a bit of time and gratitude, but it goes farther than what it may appear.
“It is great the Air Station continues the tea party every year,” Schriver said. “For some senior citizens, this is the only Christmas they may receive. For those who don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with, it’s nice to be a part of something and have someone, such as the Marines, to share it with them. The Beaufort community and its Marines just have a little more to add to its relationship and a very Merry Christmas.”