As she watched young people compete on American Idol, America’s Got Talent and the like, a thought occurred to Shepherd’s Center of Chesterfield Executive Director Tricia Wolfe: “What my seniors do is just as good.”
From that thought emerged the Shepherd’s Center’s newest fundraiser: Senior Idol, a talent competition for area adults over age 55.
“Oh, I’ve had this idea probably about three years,” said Wolfe. “We usually do a spring concert fundraiser for the organization,” and a lot of seniors come out to perform and support the center.
“The caliber of talent is just amazing to me,” she said.
The area needed something to showcase its talented seniors, she said, and the Shepherd’s Center decided to go for it this year because the opportunity presented itself. According to its website, the center “is an interfaith community-based organization that provides meaning and purpose for adults throughout their mature years by empowering them to use their wisdom and skills for the good of the Chesterfield County and its surrounding communities.”
“The Shepherd’s Center is kind of at a crossroads right now,” Wolfe said. Next year, it will celebrate 10 years of existence, and it will need to decide whether to “stay as a small community charity or become a very deliberate and professional nonprofit.”
Part of making that transition would be “becoming more deliberate in our fundraising,” she said, and Senior Idol could be a signature annual event. All of the proceeds from this year’s event will benefit the Shepherd’s Center’s free transportation, home repair and lifelong learning programs and services for the elderly of Chesterfield County and the Tri-Cities.
Auditions for this year’s Senior Idol will be held Aug. 17, Aug. 29 and Sept. 9 for the top 10 spots available in the competition, according to information from Wolfe. The final show will be held in October at a location central to the area.
Anyone over age 55 living in the Chesterfield County or Tri-Cities region may audition. All acts must be no longer than four minutes with no more than six participants, according to a press release about the event. A panel of “Idol” producers will judge the auditions and choose 10 performers to compete in the final show in October.
Cash and other prizes amounting to $300, $150 and $75 will be given to the top three places. Details about tickets and the location of the final event will be announced closer to show time, the release says. Judging will not be made on talent alone; the top 10 acts will be chosen based on their entertainment value, as well.
Somewhere between 15 and 20 audition forms have already been turned in, Wolfe said, and the Shepherd’s Center is preparing to send out a mass e-mail about the event to its partner organizations.
“A lot of times people are more open to audition if they think somebody really believes in them to the point that they bring them the audition forms,” she said. Wolfe said she anticipates a lot more audition forms coming in.
Una Harrison, a director, playwright, teacher and professional performer, said she’d volunteer to serve as a judge for the competition. Harrison has performed at previous benefits for the Shepherd’s Center.
“I think anybody that has any talent should offer their talents to make life more pleasant” for those who are less fortunate, she said. And the Shepherd’s Center does a “wonderful job,” she said.
“We need a little excitement, something to take away the blues,” Harrison said. “It’ll be fun for everyone,” and it will raise money for a worthy cause. “Hey, what more do you want?”
The top 10 finalists may perform at Chesterfest on Sept. 25, Wolfe said; the audience could vote to determine a “people’s choice” award that would be presented at the finals in October.
“As soon as people know about it [Senior Idol], there’s just an excitement about it,” she said.
Other organizations, which sometimes look for performers for meetings or events, have asked to be made aware of who the winners are, Wolfe said. Some people have already approached the Shepherd’s Center about helping out with the event.
“I think once the public finds out about it and is able to appreciate the talent of these people, they’ll be blown away,” she said. “I think it’s going to be fun.”
The Shepherd’s Center is still accepting sponsorships for the event, Wolfe said. So far, Family Care Home Health and Chester Minuteman Press have signed up to help sponsor, and Lucy Corr Village is providing space for the auditions, she said. Sponsorships for this event are available until Aug. 30.
Senior Idol audition forms are available on the Shepherd’s Center’s website, www.shepctrchesterfield.org, or by calling the office at 706-6689. Audition forms may also be picked up at the Chester and Appomattox Regional Libraries, and at Minuteman Press, 4100 W. Hundred Road, Chester.