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The New Hope Center of Paris Women & Children Shelter was the beneficiary of the inaugural Beauty is Ageless Senior Beauty Pageant, held on Sunday from 2-5 p.m. at Celebrate It!
Premier Home Care & Hospice created the event with hope to honor the elderly women of the community, celebrate their lives by giving them a special day and, most importantly, raise money to be used at the New Hope Center.
The first Beauty is Ageless event was a huge success, raising thousands of dollars for the New Hope Center, as well as an immeasurable amount of awareness to the organization’s cause and mission.
“On Sunday, Sept. 8, 16 contestants participated in Paris’ first senior beauty pageant to benefit the homeless, and whether they know it or not, they are heroes,” event committee co-chair Josh Allen, said. “If not for those bold women taking that big step to participate, we wouldn’t have had a successful pageant.”
During the pageant, all 16 contestants were given a small gift bag and flowers, but there were four official winners chosen by the judges and awarded — one winner in each of the three categories (best hat/hair, most creative apparel and talent) and an overall winner, named the 2013 Beauty is Ageless Pageant Queen.
“It’s really touching to see how supportive this community can be,” Allen said. “When we went to announce the winners and I looked out from the stage and saw the room completely filled to capacity, the crowd attentive, anticipating who would be named the queen of the pageant, I thought to myself, ‘I bet these ladies, in this moment, feel like superstars.’”
With standing room only at Celebrate It!, Irmgard Allen, the 88-year-old German contestant, took the stage to accept the overall grand prize as the queen.
As the custom tiara was placed on her head, the grand prize trophy in her hand, and the Beauty is Ageless sash around her shoulder, Allen waved to her captive audience.
“Thank you. Thank you,” she said happily as she waved in response to the many cheers.
Taking home the top prize in the best hat/hair category was 97-year-old Christina Barnett, of Bonham.
Dee Smith, 75, from Blossom, impressed the judges with an elegant dress and was named winner of the most creative apparel category.
With a handmade walking puppet named George, 73-year-old Jessie Martin, of Deport, was named winner of the talent round, after an entertaining and comical puppet routine that kept the crowd laughing.
Martin, who hand crafts puppets, which are controlled with sticks and strings and are about as big as a medium sized dog, can make them do just about anything — from dancing and walking, to shaking its head or waving its hand.
“When I heard this pageant was a fundraiser for the women and children’s shelter,” Jessie Martin said to the audience, “I decided to make a puppet to give to the New Hope Center, and he can walk and dance too!”
Although in the end Martin won the talent round hands down, the judges certainly had a tough job deciding which talent was best after watching the contestants — they sang, played harmonica, piano and omni chord, and read poems.
The event was sponsored, designed and hosted by Premier Home Care & Hospice.
“We wanted to give back to those we serve every day,” Premier Home Care & Hospice administrator Chris Johnson said. “It is important to our organizations to give back to this community and to the elderly population.”
“When we brought the New Hope Center into it and decided to donate the proceeds to them the vision of honoring elderly women in an attempt to give back to younger women and their children became clear,” Johnson said. “This event became a passion to all of us at Premier.”
Sheriff Scott Cass served as master of ceremonies for the afternoon, keeping things rolling for the participants.
“I asked Sheriff Cass to be the master of ceremonies for the pageant to introduce the ladies, speak a little, keep things flowing, and without any hesitation he took the job and really put the icing on the cake for the event,” Allen said. “I really believe it wouldn’t have been the same without him, and it was certainly an honor to have the sheriff as our emcee for the first year.”
Overall, Premier was able to raise just under $3,000 to give to the New Hope Center.
However, in a true spirit of benevolence, according to the New Hope Center board president Kimberly Fasken, an anonymous check was given to the organization on Sunday in the amount of $10,000.
Cass shared his excitement about the afternoon and his involvement in the project.
“What an idea, what an event. To bring all these people together to hear about the New Hope Center and what they do, to see these ladies have such a good time and be honored in this way; it was really a wonderful thing,” he said.
By Josh Allen, eParisExtra