Featured photo: Flint Resident Ollie Mae White was crowned Prom Queen at the Grandparents’ Prom
Written by Tanya Terry, with photos by Tanya Terry
The Grandparents’ Prom took place at Hasselbring Senior Center on Friday, September 8, and helped some area grandparents have some of the best times of their lives.
The Courier talked to Shiela Gaines, who helped found the local Grandparents’ Prom with Lyndia Warren-Black. Gaines is with the Grandparents Committee and a member of Hasselbring Senior Center.
According to Gaines, a trip she and Warren-Black took to Pensacola, Florida to visit Gaines’ family inspired them to organize the event in Flint.
“While we were there, they had a Grandparents’ Prom to go to, and they asked me if we wanted to go,” explained Gaines.
Gaines and Warren-Black were reluctant to go at first, having not bought dresses specifically for the occasion. But they found dresses and went. The prom consisted of dance-offs, singing, dancing, free gifts and dinner.
At the Pensacola prom, there were also sponsors who had games the grandparents could play to win prizes-an element the local Grandparents Committee may incorporate into their future proms, according to Gaines.
When they left Florida, Warren-Black suggested to Gaines doing something similar to the event they attended in Flint. They first organized the event in 2019, but they had to stop during the pandemic.
Food, photos, hustle dancing, shopping with 12 vendors, a Prom King and Queen competition, a karaoke contest, a dance contest and a 50/50 raffle were all part of the fun for the grandparents and other seniors. Music was provided by DJ Alonzo Laster.
Gaines pointed out Beverly Lewis, executive director of Hasselbring, partnered with the committee, helping to make the 2023 prom a reality.
“She also does Grandparents’ Weekend that same weekend at the senior center. She helped a lot. She helped us get the hall, without a lot of hassle. She just joined the committee and stepped right in and started helping us. She was a great asset to our committee and to our cause.”
Grandparents’ Weekend at Hasselbring also consisted of a Saturday morning bake-off and a free comedy show on Sunday.
Selection of the Prom King and Queen was based on how they carried themselves throughout the evening and their dress wear.
Flint Resident Ollie Mae White was crowned Prom Queen. White is 63, has three children and nine grandchildren.
White said being at the Grandparents’ Prom “took her breath away.”
“I’ve never been able to go to my prom, neither in junior high or high school,” White stated. “So, this was my first prom. So, the excitement for me was the people were so generous! They were so kind-hearted and very easy to talk to! I didn’t know a lot of people there. But they were so inviting that I got to know them.”
White told the Courier she was “blown away” when she was crowned prom queen at her “first and only prom.” She said she had not been able to go to proms in schools because she was sickly and often in the hospital during that time of her life. She opted not to go to the prom in 12th grade because she was 8 months along in a pregnancy.
“I had dreamed about dreaming about being a queen at the prom, and to have it happen now, it was just-I’m still on cloud nine,” she said, with tears of joy in her voice.
Flint Resident James Baughn was crowned Prom King. Baughn is 75 years old and has two children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Baughn described his experience at the Grandparents’ Prom as “something different.”
“I’m retired, and I do very little during the week,” explained Baughn. “We had a couple days it rained. I was glad to get out and see people I knew. The food was delicious. I liked the music. When I first came in, they were playing a lot of blues and jazz. I hadn’t heard that kind of jazz in a while. I enjoyed that.”
Being crowned Prom King came as a surprise for Baughn.
“That was very exciting,” he said.
He also said he went to a prom in 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade when he was in school. He attended Whittier Middle School and Flint Southwestern High School. He said having a tuxedo caused him to remember those proms.
The Grandparents Committee consists of: Sheila D Gaines, Lyndia Warren-Black, Beverly Lewis, David Johnson, Barbara Armstrong, DeVontae Powell, Bridget Brown and Harriett Betts. For details on the committee and/or the events it plans, contact Shiela Gaines at 810-964-7005.