Perry Lutheran Homes celebrated elders and the contributions they have made to the community over the years during the first annual StepUp banquet.

The banquet, held on Thursday, May 31 at the Hotel Pattee, was sponsored by the Perry Lutheran Homes Board of Directors.

“Tonight we’re here to help honor them with our thanksgiving and our commitment from today’s generation to the previous one. That we won’t forget what they’ve done and what they will still do to enrich our lives,” said Rev. Max Phillips, CEO of Perry Lutheran Homes.

To that end, two awards were handed out during the banquet to honor service from elders in the community.

Karen Menz was awarded the first-ever StepUp Service Award.

“In spite of her own physical challenges, my nominee for this award organized a resident Christmas caroling group. They performed around the community. I toured with them. The joy and laughter on their faces was priceless,” the nomination letter for Menz read.

Julius Little was presented the Exemplar Award for his service and leadership over the years. Little served as a Dallas County Supervisor, as a member of the Perry School Board and on various boards in the community.

“We want to honor you and your generation for all that you’ve done,” Phillips said to Little.

Honoring elders was the goal of the first StepUp banquet. As was celebrating how Perry Lutheran Homes have served elders over the past 62 years and how it will continue to serve in the future.

Phillips said the most recent project for Perry Lutheran Homes is the construction of an intergenerational elder care facility in Jacmel, Haiti. Ministry partners Ministry in Mission, Perry Lutheran Home/Christ Lutheran Church and Lutheran Family Service are helping with the project. The home is being funded by a grant from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.

“While some people never get far from home, God has pushed us in our ministry and our care far and wide with reaching impact. But with the same spirited faith in Christ that brought us through caring for others and serving so well for 105 years at one address,” Phillips said of 2323 Willis Ave.

That address has been joined by 501 12th St., the Spring Valley campus. A new name, Perry Lutheran Homes, was introduced during the banquet to reflect both campuses.

“It’s been inspired to change what we do. To change those who we serve and tonight we’re introducing a new logo that recognizes the change with our old vision matched to our new work,” Phillips said.

Perry Lutheran Homes also introduced a community-wide effort to serve elders within the community. Serving Together our Elders in Perry, or StepUp, was launched during the May 31 banquet.

Board Chairman Curtis Carlson said that there are elders in Perry who need the community’s help. Perry’s current elder population is around 1,200.

Studies estimate, Carlson said, that over 50 percent of seniors are malnourished while one in eight struggle with hunger on a daily basis.

“After a lifetime of caring and providing for others, there is no one around to care for them. We intend to change that,” he said of the StepUp campaign.

The campaign urges community members to recognize elders who have no one checking on them, to become aware of the needs of elders in the community, to get involved and engage with elders, to financially support an elder or to share the importance of honoring and caring for elders.

The first-annual StepUp banquet was the first step in that campaign. Perry Lutheran Homes will roll out a quarterly newsletter with updates on the campaign. Future StepUp events are also being planned to bring awareness to elder needs.

“We want Perry to be a place where no elder is ever forgotten. Where no elder ever lacks food, care or companionship. Where all elders feel honored, valued and an essential part of the community,” Carlson said.