Laura Newland, executive director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We’ve been hard at work planning the mayor’s annual Senior Holiday Celebration on Dec. 13 at the D.C. Armory. The theme this year, “Together We Thrive,” celebrates community and the vital role all of us play in making sure D.C. is a place where people of all ages and abilities can thrive. And what better time is there to celebrate the power of community than during the holidays?

I hope you’ll join us, and I hope you’ll walk away feeling more connected than ever to the thousands of residents, hundreds of community organizations, volunteers, government agencies and businesses who are all coming together to celebrate just that — togetherness.

But community doesn’t just exist when it’s time to celebrate. Here in D.C. our community shows up for each other every day. I’ve always said that the District is a big small-town — a place where neighbors look out for neighbors, citizens are engaged, and government is truly of the people and by the people.

This past year, we’ve seen students from D.C. Public Schools take a break from their studies to create thousands of handmade Valentine’s Day cards for homebound and isolated seniors. Notes of kindness, love and support from students ranging in age from 4 to 12 years old were delivered across the city, and some were even hand-delivered by the mayor herself!

And it’s not just the kids looking out for our older residents. Our seniors are vital to building these strong communities and instilling in all of us what it means to be a Washingtonian. We’ve seen more enthusiasm for volunteer opportunities and more residents coming to our office to complete Ambassador training to learn how to serve as a resource for isolated seniors in their own neighborhoods.

Seniors are also using their creativity to help a great cause. Several of our Senior Wellness Center participants are currently hard at work creating unique handmade quilts and blankets for children and babies transitioning out of homeless shelters and into long-term housing. We’ll be proudly displaying some of these quilts at our Holiday Celebration this month before they are donated.

Last month, Mayor Bowser launched “Home for the Holidays,” a citywide effort to secure permanent homes for 400 of the District’s most vulnerable households. This is an enormous community effort requiring landlords, residents, and stakeholders to work together to identify safe, stable and affordable housing for families and individuals, many of whom are seniors.

If you’d like to help, we’re accepting donations of new or gently used kitchenware, toys, housewares and professional clothing that will help families transform these houses into a home. You can bring items to the Adams Place Day Center at 2210 Adams Place NE. For more information on contributing, contact

So this year’s Holiday Celebration is an opportunity to celebrate what we have done together as a community, and what we continue to do every day for ourselves, and for each other. Thank you for looking out for each other. Thank you for being an example of Washingtonians coming together to accomplish extraordinary things. Remember, the holidays can be a lonely time for many. Reach out to your neighbors, spread kindness and continue to show up for one another. Wishing you a peaceful and happy holiday season.

Ms. Senior America Pageant

Carolyn Slade Harden from New Jersey was crowned Ms. Senior America. The 73-year old is a singer and former business executive who has worked with Whitney Houston, Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick and other professionals over the years as a recording artist.

Ms. Senior America Carolyn Slade Harden, pictured with Ms. Senior D.C. Frances Curtis Johnson after the crowning

Ms. Senior D.C. Francis Curtis Johnson competed for the title of Ms. Senior America in Atlantic  City in October, accompanied by two busloads of supporters from the District. Curtis Johnson was one of 37 women from across the country competing in this annual event held at the Resorts Hotel. During the week of activities, Ms. Senior D.C. presented her talent, where she portrayed a disc jockey for a senior radio program, WFRJ 67.5 FM, and shared her gift of impressionism as she took calls from two senior women in a comedic skit.

She also presented her philosophy of life, displaying elegance, grace and poise in her gray sequined evening gown. Ms. Senior D.C. is 68 years young, and is still employed as an assistant in the private sector. She also served for two terms during the Clinton White House.

The MC Steppers performed during each day of the three-day long pageant, performing a different number each day. The first two days, the MC Steppers performed tributes to Prince. For the finale, the group wowed the crowd with a mix of Uptown Funk and 24 Karat Magic.

Also participating during the events were Toni Jackson, Ms. Senior D.C. 2014 and Billie LaVerne Smith, Ms. Senior D.C. 2016, who joined queens from several states as part of the National Queens Choir.

The National Senior America Alumni Club held elections during the week, and Ann Thomas, Ms. Senior D.C. 2006, was reappointed as a member of the Board of Directors. Shirley Rivens Smith, Ms. Senior D.C. 2009, was reappointed as Parliamentarian.

The District of Columbia was definitely represented during this year’s Ms. Senior America Pageant. Congratulations again to all participants

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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