After many vaccinations, reconnecting through a Sullivan House festival

Nashville recording artist and Virginia Beach native Roger Adams performs for the residents of Sullivan House in April 2021. He offered to become involved with a Spring Fest after Helen McCarthy, a fan and friend who lives at Sullivan House, told him the residents had not had entertainment or group gatherings since the beginning of the pandemic. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]
Ed. — From the Sunday, May 9, print edition.


STRAWBRIDGE — A celebration of a return to almost-normalcy came in late April to Sullivan House, a senior independent living community near Strawbridge.

A number of residents wore Western outfits and enjoyed live country music, BBQ, a visit by local fire fighters, even a Mister Softee fresh from the truck. It was the first major group event since the pandemic hit.

Mayor Bobby Dyer showed up, too, greeting folks and taking pictures during a Springfest gathering held outside in the parking lot of Sullivan House.

“I should have worn my hat,” Dyer said moments after arriving.

Somebody lent him one.

After the long pandemic, a time of restrictions and distance that continue to limit interactions, that photo ops existed here at all is notable. Sullivan House is home to 133 residents. This was the first group event in more than a year.

“It’s been pretty lonely for the last year for a lot of them,” said Shawn Scharf, manager of Sullivan House. 

“The big concern residents have is after almost a year and a half of being isolated is that connectivity to other people,” he said.

The event was possible because vaccination of most residents and staff – at least 90 percent and likely higher – are done. And because of the generosity of participants, including the main act, Roger Adams, a Beach native and Nashville recording artist who came here after a conversation with a fan and friend, Helen McCarthy. She lives here.

Before Adams played, Dyer made remarks: “For the last year, we’ve been going through all of the Covid, and people have been locked down. … But guess what? We’re starting to come out of Covid now.”

Adams was up after that.

“Thank you for coming out,” he said, before launching into a song from his recent album, Rise Up from the Ashes.

Martha Hammons, a resident, got herself a milkshake while Adams played.

“Isn’t this wonderful?” she said.

The mayor said hello.

“Call me Bobby,” he said.

“Bobby, thanks for coming,” Hammons said.

A moment later, she reflected on the first signs of getting past the pandemic, a year in which so many things were put on hold or held at a distance.

But that is changing. Residents and staff enjoyed a show, food, ice cream, visitors. Together.

Mary Fontana applauds during a performance by the recording artist and country performer Roger Adams at Sullivan House, a senior independent living community near Strawbridge, on Friday, April 23, 2021. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]
Teddy, a long-haired chihuahua owned by Dee Etheridge, was among the attendees at the Spring Fling at Sullivan House in April 2021, where many people wore Western garb during an outdoor party featuring food and live music. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]
JoNell Monaco Lytle poses for a photograph with Virginia Beach fire fighters from Station 21, which is located near Sullivan House. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]
Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer greets Sullivan House resident Marilyn Sawyer during the Spring Fest in April 2021. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]
Martha Hammons, a resident of Sullivan House, gets a vanilla milkshake provided by Mister Softee during the Spring Fest event in April 2021. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

© 2021 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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