Let Freedom Ring

Area residents can launch their Fourth of July celebration on a grand old flag-waving note by attending the ever-popular Independence Day Extravaganza at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling.

With the waving of flags and the singing of patriotic tunes, the traditional event always draws a full house. The musical festivities begin in St. Matthew’s main church, 1410 Chapline St., at 11 a.m. Monday, July 4.

Robert F. Troeger, organist-choirmaster and director of music at St. Matthew’s, will serve as host and organist for the fun-filled, patriotic celebration of the nation’s 235th birthday. The star-spangled festivities will again star Moundsville resident Sue Pettit, a soprano soloist in St. Matthew’s parish choir, as the featured artist and song leader. Drummer Tim Birch of Wheeling will provide percussion accompaniment.

Pettit, wearing spectacular red, white and blue costumes for the occasion, will perform an all-American tribute with a spirited song set. Promising special surprises for the audience, she will lead the crowd in a sing-along of patriotic and nostalgic favorites. The session will include service anthems for the various branches of the U.S. armed forces.

To bring the concert to a stirring conclusion, Troeger will perform a rousing rendition of John Philip Sousa’s march, “Stars and Stripes Forever.” As a special treat, a select group of audience members will be chosen to provide rhythmic “accompaniment” to the crowd-pleasing selection. A reception, featuring birthday cake and lemonade, will take place in the parish hall after the concert.

The event is open to the public. The church is accessible to wheelchairs from the building’s 15th Street entrance.

Free-will contributions are accepted at the concert to benefit Faith in Action Caregivers. Organizers of the event note that the day’s theme of “independence” reflects the nonprofit organization’s mission to support the independent living of older adults and people with disabilities in Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties through the shared ministry of faith communities.

Jeanette Wojcik, executive director of Faith in Action Caregivers, will be on hand to explain the ministry’s mission. She will recognize the organization’s board members, advisory council members, volunteers and care recipients.

In 2010, Faith in Action Caregivers provided more than 10,000 hours of free assistance to 1,383 people, marking an 8.1 percent increase in services to residents of the three participating counties, Wojcik said.

Transportation to doctors’ appointments and to treatment at medical facilities continues to be the biggest area of service, the director said. Trained volunteers also assist residents with shopping, house cleaning, chores, reassurance calls and respite for family caregivers.

In addition, Faith in Action Caregivers offers the Strong for Life program of scientifically-based exercises for seniors at area high-rise apartment complexes and retirement communities. This year, Strong for Life is expanding to offer exercise sessions, open to the public, at area churches.

This spring, Faith in Action organized a project in which 179 university and high school volunteers cleaned 196 apartments at 10 senior residential facilities in the three-county service area, coordinator Jenna Derrico said.

Those helped included 70 people who currently receive care from Faith in Action Caregivers and 128 new care receivers, she added.

For more information on the Independence Day Extravaganza, call St. Matthew’s parish office, 304-233-0133. For more information on Faith in Action Caregivers, call the agency’s office in Wheeling at 304-243-5420.

Meanwhile, Faith in Action Caregivers continues to recruit sponsors, volunteers and participants for its 10th annual triathlon and duathlon, to be held at a new location, Wheeling Park, on Saturday, July 9. All athletes must register by 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 6.

The triathlon begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, July 9, with a 400-meter swim in Wheeling Park’s outdoor pool and continues with a 25-kilometer bike course on city and country roads and a 5-kilometer run on paved surfaces in the park. The duathlon, beginning at 7:45 a.m., includes a 3-kilometer run in the park, a 25-kilometer bike course on city and country roads and a 5-kilometer run in the park.