By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Sarah Oden | Shot on location at Argenta Community Theater – special thanks to Nathan Abshire | Hair & Makeup by Suzy Balkman with Bristle + Balm | Wardrobe from Unveiled Bridal Collection
Since its completion in 2011, Argenta Community Theater has served as a beacon of creativity and collaboration. The theater hosts not only partnership productions, but also special events – like the Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled Curtain Call. Chairman Gayla Jungmeyer remembers the inaugural Curtain Call and looks forward to welcoming friends + patrons back to ACT for a nostalgic evening that supports AEDD vocational and job training.
Gayla was introduced to AEDD Development Director Debbie Grooms through a mutual friend. “She was hoping to form an auxiliary group,” Gayla recalls. “I didn’t know much about the organization at the time.” It’s been more than a decade and Gayla has served as president of the auxiliary as well as the only chairman for Curtain Call. She remains impressed by the organization’s mission and leadership as her service continues. “Watching CEO Georganna Huddleston and her team strive to fulfill the dreams of AEDD clients is very inspiring.”
Since 1971, AEDD programs and resources have helped individuals gain independence to improve quality of life. It’s an enduring story of empowerment and the results are measurable. In Pulaski County, AEDD coordinates a workforce of 339 Arkansans across a variety of industry sectors. “We uphold our mission by meeting the needs of children and adults through strategic partnerships focused on education and employment,” Georganna explains. The Jobs 4 You Program matches the adults of AEDD with prospective employers. “The Jobs 4 You Program provides the training and tools necessary to work in a meaningful job,” Georganna continues. In addition to the initial employment opportunities, the Lacy Landers Adults Skills Training Center offers career development preparatory activities that include resume building techniques as well as effective interview preparation and proper workplace etiquette. Georganna considers AEDD instrumental in cultivating more inclusive communities, creating partnerships and removing obstacles for Arkansans.
Collaboration with the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College Arts & Hospitality Management Institute and its 3D Program represents the equitable nature of the AEDD vision. Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled is a resource for potential students and provides scholarships to help make the program more accessible to its clients. Debbie elaborates, “This partnership offers educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the Culinary Arts 3D Program, but we also have the potential to expand into different areas of education that will offer a variety of career choices and increase our client’s interaction with other students enrolled at the college.”
Proceeds from Curtain Call support the Jobs 4 You Program as well as 3D Program scholarships. A “dinner theater” evening with a Broadway-style show, Curtain Call traditionally features performances from professional + local talents as well as AEDD clients in ACTS in the Rock (Acting Creates Therapeutic Success). It was the first event hosted at Argenta Community Theater 10 years ago, and the partnership remains strong. “Debbie and I were trying to think of a unique, new fundraiser. The idea of dinner and a Broadway-style show at the new theater seemed like a good match,” Gayla explains. “When I mentioned it to our friend Vince Insalaco, who helped establish Argenta Community Theater, he volunteered to produce the show without hesitation. It is ironic that Curtain Call was the first event at the theater and once again is scheduled in June to be the initial production as the theater reopens after the pandemic.”
This year’s event takes a nostalgic note – Thanks for the Memories – that will feature popular performances from past productions. As the doors to Argenta Community Theater open once again, Gayla reflects on her own tenure of leadership. “It’s such an honor to connect with people I might otherwise never know and be a part of their happiness. Whether it’s the students that benefit from the Thea Foundation or the AEDD clients, celebrating hard work and accomplishments that make our community stronger is a wonderful thing.”