Elvis entered the doors of the Lakeland Harbor Community Clubhouse on September 5, 2011 to perform some of his top hits and the crowd went wild! The music was loud, the dancing was groovy, and the food was finger lickin’ good. 84 people witnessed this night unfold but were you one of them?
This 50’s sock hop event is one of the many events hosted by Noah’s Ark, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering those with developmental disabilities. Among many things, they provide a housing residence and assist the disabled in finding employment and every month they provide opportunities for the community to get involved by participating in their events.
“Our kids love music, dancing, and food.. the sock hop had it all. The event included a gourmet dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers with all the trimmings. Music was mostly from the 50’s and 60’s with some electric slide, chicken dance, YMCA, and achy-breaky heart thrown in. We even had a surprise visit from “Elvis.” It was really Billy Warnock, one of our very own, dressed up in costume!” said Jack Kosik, executive director of Noah’s Ark.
At the end of the evening, one of the disabled girls Laura was heard to say, “We need to do this more often, this is the most fun I ever had.” For Jack and his volunteers, this simple statement from Laura makes all the work they direct towards creating events, worth it.
Noah’s Ark passionately desires participants of their program to enjoy life to the fullest. That’s why they dedicate much time and effort in planning, organizing, and hosting events like the 50’s sock hop event. They also want to build relationships between the community and the disabled.
When Noah’s Ark isn’t bringing down the house with a 50’s sock hop dance, you can rest assured that they are busy doing something. Every month they upload a calendar on their website listing all of the events for that month. The events range from special events, like the 50’s sock hop, to other events like bowling, tennis, golf, and basketball, which are more laid back and frequent.
“It’s important for us to provide opportunities for our kids, to have fun and enjoy life. I call them kids but I know their not. It’s just that I truly love and care for them like my own kids,” said Jack Kosik.
Jack Kosik and his team of volunteers also plan community events. They believe it is a key ingredient in spreading awareness, which they believe is vital for the growth and success of Noah’s Ark.
“The community relations aspect of our organization is critical because of the population we are dealing with. A lot of people still don’t know who we are and until we are able to educate those people, it’s hard to gain support and it’s difficult to build community,” said Jack.
Through community events over the past couple years, Noah’s Ark has been able to gain more awareness. It has also helped the organization educate the public on the issues and struggles people with disabilities face each day and provide opportunities for them to get involved whether that be by volunteering, spreading the word, or simply donating money to help keep Noah’s Ark functioning.
A lot of Noah’s Ark community events are also fundraisers. They provide an opportunity for people to build unity, learn more about the organization, while also having the chance to give funds that help Noah’s Ark reach others.
“Sometimes people don’t give because they think they don’t have a large enough donation. They don’t realize that any amount of money helps. Whther that be $1,000 or $10, we appreciate it all,” said Jack Kosik.
Donations for the organization were recently gained during this past black Friday weekend, from Nov 25-27. Noah’s Ark and restaurant chain, Ruby Tuesday’s, came together by creating an opportunity for people to participate in Ruby Tuesday’s community giveback program.
“All customers had to do was present a flyer to their server and designate Noah’s Ark as their organization of choice and 20% of the purchase price was then donated to Noah’s Ark,” said Jack.
They also had a “Bowl-a-thon,” on October 23, 2011 located at Orange Bowl lanes on 98 North in Lakeland, FL. After the event, the community had grown closer, awarness of the Noah’s Ark was gained, and almost $8,000 for the organization was raised.
Community event planning for Noah’s Ark is more than something on the agenda. It’s something they passionately pursue because they realize they wouldn’t be where they are today without help from the community.
“The people of Lakeland are great. They are loving, supportive, and people who truly want to give back,” said Jack.
When people hear “Noah’s Ark” they often remember the story of a man who loved God, built an ark, and desired to accomplish a plan that few people believed in. The opposition he faced was great but he demonstrated the perseverance to never give up.
Like this story, a non-profit organization is pursuing their plan as well and continues to build their own “ark.” Despite the obstacles they face, their refusal to give up has been settled. They call themselves “Noah’s Ark.” Maybe because of their desire to carry people towards a life beyond the storms or maybe because they are calling for all people, the entire community, to come aboard and take part in a plan worth pursuing.