October 30, 2018

The Party with a Purpose

By Mary Schricker Gemberling

This November CASI is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Hat Bash. I have chosen to re-run an article I wrote in 2009 celebrating the success of this event!

If you want to collect money, you can “pass the hat.” If you have a secret, you can “keep it under your hat.” If you want to compete, you can “toss your hat into the ring.”

From the Fedora made famous by Bogart in Casablanca to the Safari hat worn by Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones, hats have become iconic symbols of fame, wealth, style, virtue, authority, and prestige. As far back as primitive man historical evidence has shown that some form of head covering was used for protection against the elements. Throughout early Egyptian, Roman, and Greek times, the hat was worn as a mark of rank. As time progressed head coverings continued as symbols of status and authority. Eventually, though, hats went from being a part of a uniform to an art form. During the late 14th Century hats for men played an important role in men’ s clothing, and were considered a key fashion item. Although women from an early stage were expected to have their heads covered by veils, kerchiefs, hood, caps, and wimples, women’s hats did not make a fashion statement until the late 17th Century. By the mid-1800’s, millinery, the art of hat making, had established itself as a notable industry. Hats continued to fade in and out of popularity until the 1960s when they underwent a steady decline. Hats seemed to vanish with semi-bouffant hairdos, surfer girls, Beatle maniacs, and hippies (except for Janis Joplin’s floppy hat). Hats were a formal part of our uniforms, and both uniforms and formality vanished with the freewheeling style of the 60s.

Although they are no longer the popular accessory they once were, every so often there is an attempt to bring the hat back to the mainstream. In fashion terms, hats are a very noticeable accessory because the onlooker’s attention is first drawn to the face. A hat is the most noticeable fashion item anyone can wear. The old saying goes, “If you want to get ahead and get noticed, then get a hat.” Indeed the word “ahead “means just that, one head further forward.

You probably wonder, why this sudden interest in “Hats”? Last month CASI was the setting for a huge “Hat Bash‚” attended by over 200 people. Hats of every style and color adorned the heads of both young and old. As a result of this successful event over $8,000 was raised to buy gifts and food baskets for seniors. I have heard from many attendees that not only was the “cocktail party with a purpose” fun but that the highlight was getting to wear a hat. So maybe this is just the beginning of a Quad City fashion statement. So why were the hats such a big hit? They gave everyone a great deal to talk about and revealed some interesting facets of our personalities. For instance, anyone who knows Jim Hampton was not surprised that he wore thirty different hats during the evening! Some of the men loved that the hat concealed their thinning or bald heads. One gentleman commented that hats made women look sexy (that is certainly reason enough for me to wear them more often).

A hat adds mystery, glamour, playfulness, style. It defines personal space and projects personal taste. Hair can accomplish only so much; a hat can do anything! It is warmth in the winter; shade in the summer, a blessing on a bad hair day, and the capstone on an outfit. A new hat is as soul-thrilling as a new pair of shoes, and it never ever pinches. In this instance, the hat was the impetus for a very successful fundraiser. Thanks to Gwen Tomberg for her inspiration, to the best
committee ever for their hard work, to the media and sponsors for their support, but most of all thanks to all of you who attended and in the spirit of the season and made the Quad Cities a better place for our seniors to live.

I remember that fall morning like it was yesterday! There were 4 or 5 of us gathered around a table at Starbucks wondering why Gwen Tomberg had set up this meeting when she began to read a letter written by a senior named Lenora. In 2008, Lenora had sent a letter to CASI thanking someone named ‘Kate’, who had given her a gift. At 89 years old, Lenora didn’t have too many visitors and the Christmas gift was the only one she had received.

After the tears were dried the anguish on the faces of each of us at that table was replaced with guilt. How had we let that happen? How did we not know that there were so many seniors in our community that would not receive even one Christmas gift? Many were alone and forgotten just like Lenora, save the one kind act of that employee from CASI. In the blink of an eye a committee was formed and each of us left with coffee in hand, and a list of what needed to be done. That was how the Holiday Hat Bash started! I recently reminisced with Gwen about that first meeting and how she felt all these years later about the success of the event. She said she wasn’t surprised, “once the community knew there was a need, it just exploded! It shows the power of people caring….we were just trying to raise a little money for presents for seniors and look what happened!” For ten years people from all over have donned their favorite hat and attended “The Party with a Purpose” and by doing so have brought support to thousands of local seniors during the holidays and all year long.

I will be there and I challenge each of you, my readers, to attend this year’s ‘Hat Bash’ and make it the biggest and best ever. The need to support our seniors has never been greater. Seniors are the fastest growing demographic in our community. By 2025 1 in 4 adults in the QC will be over the age of 65. We call this aging of the Baby Boomers ‘The Silver Tsunami’.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

CASI, 1035 West Kimberly Road, Davenport, IA 52806

5:30-9:30 p.m.

Tickets $40 until November 1st

Tickets $50 November 7-15 and at the door

Can”t make it, but want to help out? Donations can be mailed to CASI. For more information call 563-386-7477 or visit www.hatbash.com

Mary Schricker Gemberling

Mary, a former educator and Seniors Real Estate Specialist, is the author of three books, The West End Kid, Labor of Love, and Hotel Blackhawk; A Century of Elegance.

Filed Under: Community, Featured