Senior Royalty

Españolan Alfred Roybal, 78, and his wife, Beatrice Roybal, 74, were elected prom king and queen for the night. 

This year, local teens weren’t the only ones who got to dance the night away at prom: senior citizens who are a part of the Española-based “Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion program” had their own celebration on April 27 at the First Baptist Church.

Program coordinator Henrietta Gaines said that while the 2023 Senior Prom Recognition was a new event for the program, it was a huge success. 

“We usually just hold a regular recognition and give them certificates, door prizes and a good meal,” she said. “But this time we decided to do it differently.”

Gaines said the event began when “Las Mañanitas” was played and the program’s advisory council went around passing out corsages and boutonnieres to the volunteers.

The event was catered by Big Dawgs and Larry Vigil performed as the night’s DJ, according to Gaines.

Españolan Alfred Roybal, 78, and his wife, Beatrice Roybal, 74, were elected prom king and queen for the night. 

“Alfred and Beatrice contribute a lot,” Gaines said. “They work at Victory Faith and they work very hard to work with their students even outside of the school. They’re always here volunteering for me and helping me. Anything I need, I know I can call them and they’re here.”

Gaines said the couple was shocked when they were crowned. She added the couple is well-liked by most of the other volunteers and that they’re hard work does not go unnoticed. 

“They had such a great time,” Gaines said of the volunteers who attended the event. “They danced. They were doing the jitterbug and the twist. They had a great, great time. It was successful. I was just so happy that we were able to do it for them. It was our way of thanking them for everything that they do because they only get paid $4 an hour.”

Despite the low stipend, Gaines said the volunteers are happy with their checks and to help around the community.

The volunteers are honored annually, and this year’s event was a prom celebration, which Gaines said she was inspired by after seeing her niece prepare for her own prom.

The event was a success – so much so that Gaines said the volunteers are already asking her to start planning next year’s. 

“It was something new to us,” she said. “It was something new for me to put together. It was a lot of hard work, but it was successful. Now next year – I have no idea what I’m going to do.”

The “Foster Grandparent program” currently has 25 volunteers, according to Gaines. The volunteers go to Española Public Schools, Victory Faith Church or Rock Christian Church and help with the children who have special needs. Gaines said the volunteers aid the students who have fallen behind in their studies and this allows the teacher to continue on with the rest of the class.

Gaines said there are 17 volunteers in the “Senior Companions program” and they provide services to other senior citizens. Their duties typically include visiting people with no or very little family, taking them breakfast and lunch and enjoying activities with them.

While the program suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaines said she is hopeful more volunteers will come when the program starts anew in July. 

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