Gatlinburg church hosts annual party for Douglas Cooperative clients

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 04:16 PM

The mood was joyful Thursday afternoon in a banquet hall at River Terrace Resort and Convention Center. Banner Missionary Baptist Church was hosting its annual Christmas party for the clients and volunteers of the nonprofit Douglas Cooperative, Inc., which provides support services to developmentally disabled people.

People ate a chicken dinner and talked. Santa was available for photographs. On a stage, a bluegrass band played. Revelers greeted a visitor warmly, with smiles and hugs.

Santa hats were worn, as well as elf costumes, reindeer horns and Christmas sweaters. The dance floor was a frenzy of movement. Some danced in pairs, others solo. There were many cries of “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy New Year!”

It was the 36th Christmas party Banner Baptist has thrown for Douglas Cooperative, said Anita Graham, a case manager with the agency. “Everybody with the church does this,” she noted. “They put on a lovely meal.”

“This is the best part,” said Janet Spencer, nodding toward the dancers. Spencer does administrative work for the cooperative.

Incorporated in 1976, Douglas Cooperative serves clients in Blount, Cocke, Jefferson and Sevier counties. The organization provides residential services including group homes and supported living. It offers day programs, helps clients find jobs and arranges transportation.

Melba Oakley attended with her grandson, Michael Vaughn. She attends Banner Baptist and helps organize the party every year. Vaughn is a Douglas Cooperative client. At Banner Baptist services, he rings the bell and helps with the offering.

“I never realized the help handicapped people needed until he was born,” Oakley said.

As the party reached its climax, the band played “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Everyone sang along. Then came “Amazing Grace.” “Praise God,” they sang. “Praise God.”