By Tommi O. Peters
For The Tribune
Beaming smiles were the reward for warm greetings from the staff at Trussville’s Seafood & Chicken Box on Oct. 11. The eatery hosted a gathering for participants in the Adult Day Program at Oneonta’s location of Arc of Central Alabama which included lunch, an art show and presentation from the artists.
Lisa George is Day Program Coordinator for the group and noted, “We try to offer as many community integration experiences as possible, but this is a particularly unique and important experience. Not only did the artists reach out, but also the restaurant opened its doors to a group that they might not be completely comfortable or familiar with.”
George continued, “These experiences are life-affirming all the way to the core for these individuals. We’re affirming their social role as friend, consumer, and individual by validating their right to services and community integration that we enjoy every day. It’s an opportunity for them to feel that they’re part of the whole. We’re all part of the human experience.”
“We’re happy to provide an opportunity to observe art and enjoy a meal and let them know that they’re important to us. Every human being deserves to be respected and treated well,” stated Gagliano.
Excited comments could be heard from the individuals as they took in the paintings on display by local artists Janice Cook and Lindanne Phillips with the Cahawba ART Association.
A.J. Davis declared a painting of beagles to be his favorite among the collection. “My brother has a dog and this reminds me of him,” explained Davis.
“My mom likes roosters and so do I,” noted Jennifer Moore as she identified a large rooster painting as one of her favorites.
“I like all of them because I’m an animal lover,” shared Sue Stephens.
While the attendees enjoyed their meals, each artist gave a short presentation about their work.
Celebrating the value of individuality, Phillips noted, “I work in more earthy tones while Janice’s pieces are very vibrant. It shows how we’re all different, and that’s a great thing.”
Cook shared that she chose a collection of roosters and fish as a nod to the Seafood & Chicken Box theme. She explained that artwork can have many layers of meaning by sharing, “The roosters remind me of the forgiveness we have from Jesus. We all make mistakes, but that’s okay because we have forgiveness through Jesus.”
In preparation for the outing, Cook volunteered with the group to make rooster-themed thank you cards which the participants presented to restaurant co-owner Rosemary Gagliano.
A bouquet of sunflowers provided by Shirley’s Florist added an extra touch to the gathering. Phillips and Cook also gifted each participant with a magnet displaying various pieces of their artwork as a reminder of the day.
Kendall Rizzo is one of the individuals from Arc that participated in the outing. “I’m just so happy to be here. The food is so good and I love art!”
The Seafood & Chicken Box allots two-month showings for a rotating collection of work from two members of the Cahawba ART Association at a time.
“It gives us variety and is always delightful no matter what medium they use. Our customers notice when new art comes in and they’ll walk around and look at the different pieces,” shared Gagliano.
Suellen Wilkins is president of the Cahawba ART Association and noted, “We’d love to have more artists join us and are always looking for local places where we can display our work. Anyone interested can contact us through facebook.”
George expressed that there is always a need for businesses and individuals that can provide access to various services who are willing to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Examples include access to services at hair or nail salons and dental offices that can make the individuals feel comfortable.
“Assistance is needed with things as simple to the rest of us as being able to go to a book store and buy a book, or try on shoes, or signing up for a library card,” shared George.
George summarized, “What’s important isn’t necessarily that they’re being treated special, but that they’re treated like you and I would be.”
Those interested in offering services or becoming a volunteer with Arc in Onteona can contact Lisa.George@arcofcentralalabama.org or by calling (205)625-3552. Additional information can be found online at arcofcentralalabama.org.