March 21, 2008

Lucy-Desi center increases efforts for outreach mission

Observer, 3/21/08, JAMESTOWN — At its annual meeting recently, the board of directors of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center took steps in moving forward with fulfilling the center’s mission through expanding its outreach and education programs.

In announcing the Lucy-Desi Center’s plans, President Charles Edward Fagan noted, “Fulfilling our mission to enrich the world through the healing powers of love and laughter is the best kind of expression of Lucille Ball’s and Desi Arnaz’s characters, their contributions, and their memory. While recognizing the center’s fine efforts in the past in education and outreach, the board’s direction is changing in subtle but important ways to engage in specific projects related to the healing power of laughter.”

The board made a commitment to quadruple the center’s outreach efforts by approving the addition of two new positions, outreach associate and development coordinator. Both will work with the center’s education/outreach coordinator to expand and fund programming in health care facilities, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as other areas.

In Norman Cousins’s 1979 book “Anatomy of an Illness,” he described the healing he experienced from laughing. Fagan, quoting Cousins, said, “Laughter is a form of internal jogging. It moves your internal organs around. It enhances respiration. It is an igniter of great expectations.”

In cooperation with medical facilities and professional medical and health consultants and with the assistance of trained volunteers, pilot projects will be established in local and regional health care facilities — projects that can be expanded to the national stage. These will focus on quality-of-life issues in the later stages of life. Special concentration will be on a pilot project to reach out into health care facilities with the healing power of laughter, to lessen depression that sometimes comes with old age or even with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

America’s fastest growing age group, the so-called “baby boomers,” has different expectations of life span and quality of life. Anticipating those needs, projects for this aging generation and those older will involve cooperative efforts with local and regional health care providers to develop programs to serve people now and in their later years, the generation that saw “I Love Lucy” when it originally aired on television in the 1950s.

Plans are also under way for a Klown Kollege, greater cooperation with the Arts Council for Chautauqua County, continuing work with students and teachers, Scouts, the Hispanic community, and re-establishing the Lucille Ball Scholarship at Jamestown Community College through an endowment at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.

“These represent major steps for the center and indicate an increasing focus on the healing power of laughter,” Fagan said.

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