ALBANY HERLAD - JENNIFER PARKS
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— While helping the homebound senior citizens of Southwest Georgia with a meal delivery, the annual SOWEGA Council on Aging Comedy Night set for next month is expected to be a family friendly affair with plenty of laughs.
The headline attraction will be Mark Lowry, best known as a Christian comedian who is a baritone singer with the Gaither Vocal Band and comedic sidekick to Bill Gaither. He’s a favorite on the Gaither Homecoming series concert tours and video series. He is an author and songwriter, whose best known lyrics are for the song “Mary Did You Know?”
The 10th annual event, set for 7 p.m. on Aug. 6 at the Albany Municipal Auditorium at 200 N. Jackson St., will benefit the Meals on Wheels program coordinated through the Council on Aging.
“This is a fundraiser for us for our Meals on Wheels program,” said Council on Aging Executive Director Kay Hind. “We just got cut in that area under the Older Americans Act.
“I like Comedy Night, and I think it is good for the community to have a real good laugh.”
Lowry will be accompanied by pianist Stan Whitmire.
The combination of comedy and music “is different from what we have done in the past,” said Izzie Sadler, developmental director with SOWEGA.
Lowry, in a recent phone interview with The Albany Herald, said that — especially since he is now in his late 50s — the senior citizen age group is one he likes most to entertain, and one to which is he beginning to relate.
“I’m aging, and everyone is,” he said. “Baby boomers are now hitting senior citizen age.”
Like many other comedians, Lowry takes his material from his own life, which means that “the joke’s always been on me.”
The majority of his audiences have been either been the young or senior citizens. Every audience is a little bit different, so in many cases, an act is structured based on what that particular audience might relate to.
“When I see them, I may be able to sense” the direction for the Albany show, Lowry said.
Whitmire usually provides music to help open up the show before Lowry comes out, the comedian said.
“If they (audience members) have a pulse, you can communicate with them,” Lowry said. “As long as they speak English, I can communicate with them. It’s a night for everybody … I think everyone will enjoy it.”
The fundraiser, the most significant of the year for the council, has gained momentum through increased community support. This has allowed coordinators to book someone who is more well known while also making sure there is enough in the proceeds to make the effort worthwhile.
The goal this year is to raise $30,000-$40,000 for the 14-county area that SOWEGA serves so the Meals on Wheels program can continue to assist 960 people in getting the 187,000 meals delivered to them annually that they otherwise might miss.
“We serve a 14-county area and every county has a Meals on Wheels,” Hind said. “It is not limited to Albany. This will benefit all of those in the service area who get it.”
Sponsors, which have come through with the help of the council’s board, have been key, since the Comedy Night ticket prices alone are not enough to make the event successful.
“Every year, we have made a little more money and promoted it more,” said Hind.
While the money helps, the event has also built more awareness about what the Council on Aging does — in turn expanding its volunteer base.
“It builds a relationship between us and the community,” Sadler said.
This year, there is the advantage of having a comedian who already has a following in Southwest Georgia.
“Everybody has said he is fantastic,” Sadler said.
Continuing Meals on Wheels, SOWEGA officials say, allows for more than a meal delivery. It also provides a daily welfare check.
“That is equally important,” Hind said.
The reserved seats on the ground level of the auditorium have already sold out, but general admission seating in the balcony remains open at $20 each. Dr. Doug Lorber with Albany Audiology and Hearing Aid Center will be serving as the master of ceremonies for the event.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.sowegacoa.org or call (229) 435-6789. Individuals can also stop by the Kay H. Hind Senior Life Enrichment Center at 335 W. Society Ave.