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Former student puts ‘tea’ in teacher at party for cancer research

I have never thought of myself as a teacher, but I guess if you get right down to it, that’s exactly what I am. For almost 15 years I have demonstrated projects, offered ideas and given out instructions.

From what I have seen recently, many of you use some of my advice to go out and create something beautiful. It is always wonderful when you send me photographs of things you have created. I just love seeing them. Thanks for doing your homework.

However, it is rare that I get the opportunity to witness firsthand your creative endeavors. But this past Saturday, I was fortunate to be involved in a tea party that served up creativity, as well as cups of our favorite brewed beverage. The Relay for Life Team from Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Forsyth hosted the party to raise much-needed funds for cancer research. I was honored to be their guest speaker.

One of my former Helper Bees on my television show, Dorothy Edge, approached me last November to ask me if I would be willing to come and speak at her group’s tea party. Since Dorothy has done so much for me over the years and is one of my “adopted mothers,” how could I possibly say no? When she added that all the funds would go to cancer research, I said, “Let’s find a date!”

Dorothy knows a lot about cancer because she has experienced its ugly and dark grip firsthand. But instead of allowing it to win the battle, she focused on finding a cure for it. Armed with creative talents and a very sweet spirit, she and the rest of the team organized a tea party to end all tea parties.

She e-mailed me prior to the occasion many times to make sure I knew that her church was a “country church” and not to expect much. As if she was almost apologizing, she told me it would be nothing like the kinds of things I was used to. I assured her I had seen all kinds of things and could not wait to perform at this special event.

She bragged to me that the tickets had sold with little or no publicity. In fact, she had to turn people away. She informed me it was because of me, but I would soon find out that it was because of her and her friends that every chair was filled.

Driving into the parking lot of the church, I was immediately greeted by pink tulips flanking each side of the entrance to the fellowship hall. When I walked into the room where the tea was to take place, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Dorothy and her group of cancer warriors had transformed the fellowship hall into a beautifully decorated party room.

Pristine white cloths covered each of the tables, which were beautifully set with tea party finery. Pink and white flowers were arranged in vases that proudly stood at the center of each table. At each person’s place was a small tea towel embroidered with a delicate tea cup and tied up with a ribbon. Just from knowing Dorothy, I knew she had hand-embroidered each and every one. I smiled.

As my eyes darted around the room, I was greeted by a large buffet table that was the elegant focal point of the entire room. Every kind of lovely serving piece you could possibly imagine became the props to showcase the party food. And a showcase it was! At the end of the table, the first thing that immediately captured my attention was a platter mounded up with pink iced and decorated tea cake cookies. They had been carefully cut out in the shape of a tea cup. Scanning the table like a kid in a candy store, I had trouble processing all the delicacies. My mouth certainly had no trouble watering.

Artfully decorated miniature cupcakes, petite and colorful sandwiches, bright orange hand-piped cheese straws and toasted pecans called out my name.

It has been a long time since I have seen so many treats under one roof. These ladies definitely knew the difference between “from scratch” and “sto-bought!” I knew from my own experience how many hours had gone into the preparation of such a party. But it was not just hours involved. A whole lot of love was mixed in as well.

Every lady I met was instantly my new best friend, and my wife and I enjoyed every second we were there. I used the time to quiz several of the ladies on their culinary secrets that made everything I ate taste so good. Just like you would expect from the women of a country church, they gladly shared their recipes.

A lot of money was raised to aid in the fight against cancer, and for me, many new friends were made. After visiting with these ladies, I discovered some of them had known each other since birth.

Between sipping tea and tasting confections, these ladies caught up on everything that had happened since last they met. I loved being a part of their reunion.

As we said our goodbyes and received many hugs, I could tell how tired Dorothy was. Who wouldn’t be after planning and executing such a beautiful party?

I don’t know why she was worried about me coming. I told her to get some much-needed rest. Deep down inside, this teacher swelled with pride over the accomplishments of my student. I couldn’t wait to get home and write her to inform her she received an “A!” on her report card.

In these days filled with troubling news on so many fronts, this party served as a perfect example of what just a few hard-working women, armed with lots of love and creativity, can do. Cancer, you better watch out!

P.S.: Don’t forget about the upcoming Bunko for Breast Cancer Extravaganza on Feb. 27. I am thrilled to be involved again this year. If you haven’t purchased your tickets, go to or call (478) 718-4123.

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Mark Allen Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA; fax them to (478) 474-4390 or call (478) 757-6877.