Mary Adamski View from
the Pew

Mary Adamski

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Calling all Angels

An outreach mission hosts
quarterly parties to fill spiritual
needs of the mentally handicapped

Passers-by might have wondered at the mix of music vibrating out of Calvary Episcopal Church at a busy Kaneohe corner last Saturday -- vintage rock 'n' roll, children's group dances, the Macarena again and again, followed by the predictable Doxology in Hawaiian.

It all made sense if you were in there at the "Angel Rock" party at which about 30 volunteers and their 70 guests mixed it up on the dance floor and shared brief moments of prayer.

It was a quarterly party of the Special Angels outreach mission shared by three Episcopal churches.

Hazel Milnor is the founder of the nonprofit group, which she envisions as a spiritual component to the Special Olympics and special education classes that enhance the lives of developmentally disabled people.

The guests came from as far away as Wahiawa and Ewa, brought by organizations that provide for mentally handicapped adults, Easter Seals Hawaii, Arc in Hawaii and Aloha Habilitation Corp., which administers several family-operated care homes.

"I feel mentally handicapped people are forgotten people," said Milnor, who created the Special Angels organization four years ago. "They are people who haven't the attention span for a regular church service but are every bit in need of spiritual refreshment as the rest of us."

Milnor's mission is a personal one. Her daughter Jean Ann was born with Down syndrome, and their time spent in churches during the last 49 years has included incidents of trauma and rejection, Milnor said.

Milnor launched the organization with the help of her parish, St. Clement's Episcopal Church, which committed to the project three years ago.

Left, Julie was delighted at the chance to dance as volunteers and guests joined in "Angel Rock" at Calvary Episcopal Church.

St. Andrew's Cathedral has alternated as host for the quarterly parties, and Calvary just joined the project.

In the brief prayer service, Barbara Burke talked about gospel writer Luke's words, "Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

It was her visual prop, a flashcard of Nike's famous check logo, that brought her message home. What does this tell us? she asked. "Just do it!"

"Are you going to sit in chairs and watch, or are you going to dance?"

"Are you going to shake someone's hand or give someone a hug?"

"The Lord wants us out there interacting with one another," said Burke, who generated an enthusiastic chorus of response, "Just do it."

"There is a lot of love and care put into today," said Burke, who subbed for her husband, the Rev. Dale Burke, who was watching their 24-year-old son play soccer in the Special Olympics regional games.

"I'm blessed to walk around and do normal things," said Dave Lutu, a staff member at the Ewa Easter Seals adult care program. "They're blessed, too, and they need help.

"For us, there's always a club where we could go to dance. For my friends, this is a chance to make life normal," said Lutu, talking at the edge of the crowded and noisy dance floor.

"We don't block ourselves off in four walls; we're like an exploring group," he said.

It was Calvary member Janey Lau's first shift as a Special Angel.

She shared her own handiwork, dozens of Hawaiian print boxes, and helped the guests add their personal touch with glue and sparkles before they filled the containers with treats and prizes to take home.

Evalynn Quisenberry, left, led an art-made-easy session as partygoers filled in the colors on prints of her sketches of flowers, sea creatures and scenes of Hawaii.

At the next table was artist Evalynn Quisenberry, who brought outlines of her sketches of flowers, sea creatures and animals for the guests to color -- inside or outside of the lines is up to each artist, she said. Quisenberry, 84, shares her talent this way at a weekly art class at the Central Union Church senior day care center. She unveils a new sketch each week.

The partygoers enjoyed the artistry of the kitchen volunteers. Whatever hot dogs, tuna sandwiches, raw vegetables and cookies weren't consumed at the party were packed up for the bus ride back to Wahiawa and Ewa.

It was a close call on who's best at the "Macarena" hand movements. Calvary youth group members Jessica Liberato, Esther Carr and Lizzie Finwere were hard pressed to match the joyous, hilarious pace set by Special Angel, guests on the dance floor.

"There's a lot of joy and satisfaction," said Louise Emery, talking about the state of mind of a volunteer. She and her husband, Dwight, coordinated the Calvary effort.

"Though they are not verbally skilled, they know what's going on," said Emery of the guests, who might not have fulfilled the Emily Post etiquette of saying "thank you" as they left.

Her brother, 57, is also a Special Olympics competitor. He has lived with the Emerys since his mother died four years ago.

"We take him everywhere we go. I find there is a public awareness and acceptance of people like Paul," she said.

The party was over too soon for the guests. The Special Angels are already planning the next one, which will be in November at the Artsplace, a studio for developing artists with and without disabilities, in Pearl City.

Left, Hazel Milnor created the Special Angels Ministry with her daughter Jean Ann as inspiration.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Religion Calendar

Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin.
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