The Salvation Army hosts ‘Stayin’ Alive’ senior prom in Horry County, South Carolina

By: Jerry Williams

When Captain Carl Melton dressed for work on May 19, 2021, he didn’t reach for his Salvation Army uniform. Instead, he opted for a shiny black polyester shirt, white vest and pants, and a pair of platform shoes. Next, he added the final touches — a large gold chain with letters spelling DISCO, a brown wig that fluttered a bit when he walked, and gold mirrored sunglasses.

This was no ordinary day at the office for The Salvation Army in Horry County, South Carolina. Instead, it was Senior Prom day. In a few short hours, 180 senior citizens would arrive at The Salvation Army’s gym for the ’70s themed prom, dressed in their disco best and ready to dance the afternoon away.

It’s funny how great things begin out of necessity. We were just coming out of a difficult year of social isolation and there was a need to get senior citizens socializing again,” said Captain Melton, corps officer. “We reached out to the Horry County Council on Aging to see what we could do.”

The Salvation Army and Horry County Council on Aging (HCCOA) have been partners in the community for many years. Because of social distancing during the pandemic, their buildings were only able to accommodate just a few seniors at a time, limiting their programs. At the same time, The Salvation Army Social Services office was noticing more and more seniors coming through the food pantry and staying around just to talk. Something needed to happen to ensure senior citizens remained healthy, both mentally and physically.

The Salvation Army reached out to the director of HCCOA and suggested they work together to find a solution for the social isolation seniors were having all across Horry County. After all, The Salvation Army had plenty of space in their gym for socially distanced activities. The HCCOA readily agreed.

The first event was a St. Patrick’s Day themed Bingo game in March. In April, seniors were treated to a Spring Fling event with an Easter Hat competition, and more than 130 seniors attended. The team knew May’s event had to be a big celebration, as 95 percent of seniors and staff were vaccinated. They decided to have a ’70s themed senior prom, aptly named “Stayin’ Alive.”

When prom-goers walked into the decorated gym, the first thing they noticed was the huge disco ball suspended from the ceiling in the center of the room. A DJ was playing their favorite hits from the ‘70s. They took pictures and gushed over each other’s glittery outfits. As the afternoon wore on, the senior citizens danced, ate, and enjoyed hanging out with their friends.

Attendees elected a Prom Queen and King, and the Prom Queen was 100 years old. Overall, the prom was a smashing success. The revelers were tired but happy as they left the gym to return home.

That evening when Captain Melton removed his dancing shoes and gold DISCO necklace after the prom, he reflected on the day. He laughed as he remembered his staff member dressed in a sequined gold jacket, the excitement of the Prom Queen as she was crowned, and the joy on the faces of the senior citizens as they partied and danced.

It was a very good day for ministry.

Jerry Williams is the corps business manager for The Salvation Army in Horry County.