After 32 years of serving our church as the Children's Ministry director, my boss and my friend, Sharon is set to retire at the end of the year. Her announcement didn't totally shock me but the thought of not having her in this role is deeply saddening to me. I've been working with Sharon for nearly three years and really do consider her a friend. She loves kids, loves God and has served in such a huge capacity for so long that her absence will most certainly be felt.
I had been approached to coordinate her retirement party and sort of declined, offering to help but not thinking that I had the time to commit to planning a party for 300 people...a week or so after this first request, our head pastor, Fitz, called me at home and personally asked me to coordinate Sharon's celebration. I said yes (really, how do you say no to that?) and thus planning and coordinating became my primary focus for the month. I had never done anything like this, on this large of a scale before, and I won't lie and say that I wasn't terribly daunted at first. I felt tremendous pressure to make this party something that was worthy of a woman who had selflessly served God and our church for over three decades. However, it was truly humbling to see so many amazing people step forward and offer to help in various ways. My sweet friends helped in every way possible and I will be forever grateful!
The party turned out really well...better than I could have hoped, in fact. The gym (how is it possible to make a gym look nice, I wondered?) turned out lovely and the celebration time in the sanctuary, before the reception, was so thoughtful and special. My hope is that Sharon truly felt the love and appreciation that she deserves.
Sharon had requested a "camp" theme, because summer camps had always been a meaningful part of her ministry.
I reused the backdrop from Kennedy's party and found great printables on line that allowed for editing. Our friend, Dan, graciously brought me five large, round pieces of cut trees (guess they are called lilly pads) and we used those to help bring a natural feel to the dessert table.
We had 12+ dozen cupcakes, baked by thoughtful ladies and lovingly frosted by Shannon and Kathy. Dozens of cookies, brownies and other sweets were also brought in for the celebration.
Cute little wrappers on Hershey bars - the back of the labels had sweet, personal information written about Sharon.
I didn't get great shots of the tables, but they were kind of a nightmare. They ended up being an improvised success, but there was a bit of stress in getting them that way.
When we arrived on Saturday, all (18!) of the tables and (180!) chairs were to be set up for us. Unfortunately that wasn't the case...enter my amazing husband. Thankfully Kyle and another kind man, Bo were there and willing to help. Carter and Samuel were even put to work! At that point we were not above a little child labor.
Then we couldn't find table clothes that fit. Numerous calls were made to try to track them down, but no luck. So we improvised. Kathy and I had bought this lovely, neutral table wrap (kind of like wrapping paper) that coordinated nicely. We used brown butcher paper as a runner and then square pieces of the floral paper on a diagonal. I found the flowers at Michael's on clearance and thought they looked very nice (for fake flowers). After it was all said and done, the tables looked lovely. I could never have done this alone, and I am so grateful for Kathy and her creative mind. We worked well together and just having her there with me helped relieve much of the stress that I was feeling!
The dessert table
I thought we'd have left over treats coming out of our ears, but once dinner was over the table was cleared...It looked like locusts had invaded. There were a handful of cookies left and that was it!
The amazing team of Linda and Amy transformed the sanctuary for the celebration. It was so fun to see what they came up with - they had some help, as well, but were definitely the creative force behind the whole look.
The ever talented, Andria, created this great sign that was displayed in the sanctuary during the celebration. Sharon loved it!
Miss Sharon, basking in the love!
Bibleman kicked things off - he was hilarious!!!
Sharon's daughter, Amy, sang beautifully. It was such a personal and touching tribute to her mama.
Miss Sharon loves her kids, so I knew I wanted to include them in her celebration. Anna lead the littler ones in a few songs and then wrote a song for Sharon that the older kids sang. It all ended with a good, ol' fashioned camp sing-a-long. It was so fun to hear everyone getting into it.
I think it was my favorite part of the night...those sweet voices, singing with love and vibrancy.
My little ones singing their hearts out.
I was a bit overwhelmed with the food and the idea of planning and prepping a meal for over 300 people. Thankfully there are women who God has graced with magnificent cooking skills. Leontina was the head chef and prepared two delicious, homemade soups, a fall salad, apple cranberry crisp and even kid friendly macaroni and cheese. It was all delicious. My sweet friend, Rachel, did all of the shopping and took the lead on coordinating with Leontina. It was such a huge help. We had lots of helping hands during the party, as well. Several high schoolers helped serve and lots of ladies were busy in the background ensuring everything went off smoothly.
I can barely type as I look at these pictures, because I am laughing so hard!!!
As everyone came downstairs for the dinner reception, I entered the gym and noticed a little old, white haired lady sitting in Sharon's seat. I kind of panicked - "how could she not realize that she was in a special chair?" It was the only black, padded chair in the entire gym, it was in the center of the room, had a sign on the back of the seat, a special cupcake on the plate and fresh flowers in the center of the table. Really?!?! I had no idea what to do, as I certainly didn't feel comfortable asking her to move...enter our fearless Associate Pastor, Matt. I grabbed his sweet wife, Anne, pointed out the gaffe and said, "this certainly looks like a pastoral issue, could we get Matt to do something?" As Kathy and I stood by, watching and giggling (and taking pictures), poor Matt had to explain to this woman that she was sitting in the seat of honor and she had to move...
"Look, there's even a sign."
Matt, you are the best! Thanks for helping to save the day!!!
a little love tree
Kids and their families wrote notes and verses to Sharon that we used in the decorations.
Such a great way to show a wonderful lady how much she is truly appreciated. It was a lot of work but I am so thankful that I could help honor Sharon and her many years of service.
Good luck, Chief!