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Senior Living Community Residents Go All-Out for Dolly Parton’s Birthday: ‘Fan for Life’

The life enrichment director at Waltonwood Main in Rochester Hills, Michigan, made the country star's milestone a celebration her residents wouldn't forget

<p>Courtesy Waltonwood Senior Living</p> Residents celebrate Dolly Parton at Waltonwood Main

Courtesy Waltonwood Senior Living

Residents celebrate Dolly Parton at Waltonwood Main

When Lindsay Charlefour, who works as the life enrichment director at Waltonwood Main senior living community in Rochester Hills, Michigan, read Dolly Parton’s new book Behind the Seams, she knew what the center’s next theme week would be.

“I started thinking Waltonwood, Dollywood — a whole week of nothing but celebrating, honoring, learning about her,” says Charlefour, 41. “I ran out of space on the calendar because there was so much we could do.”

This much is true: activities around Parton's 78th birthday on Jan. 19 included a learning session about her beloved butterflies, a supper of foods from her native Tennessee (think chicken and dumplings and butterscotch pie) and a book drive for her Imagination Library.

<p>Courtesy Waltonwood Senior Living</p> Lindsay Charlefour and Toni Alexander at Waltonwood Main's Dolly Parton celebration

Courtesy Waltonwood Senior Living

Lindsay Charlefour and Toni Alexander at Waltonwood Main's Dolly Parton celebration


Another day, to emulate Dollywood’s famous stampede, Charlefour brought in a pony from a nearby farm named Macho, who donned a Dolly-esque blonde wig. ("Animals are so therapeutic," Charlefour adds of the move.)

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Charlefour "went all over the state of Michigan finding Dolly Parton CDs or knickknacks," she says. "I set up different exhibits in areas of the community for residents to learn more about her. It's really important to me, that the residents hear, see, touch — that they can interact. And the more they know, how can you not fall in love with Dolly?"

That applies to resident Toni Alexander, 98, who wasn't overly familiar with the country star before the month's celebrations. She was the one who received Behind the Seams as a holiday gift from her daughter, and passed it along to Charlefour for consideration.

<p>Courtesy Waltonwood Senior Living</p> Residents celebrate Dolly Parton at Waltonwood Main

Courtesy Waltonwood Senior Living

Residents celebrate Dolly Parton at Waltonwood Main

"After looking at her book and learning about her, I can do nothing but admire her as a benefactor and an entertainer," says Alexander. "And I want Dolly to know that I'm now a fan for the rest of my life."

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Hearing such comments from the residents makes Charlefour's heart "burst," she says. "This is exactly why we do what we do."

"Happy birthday to Dolly from Waltonwood and all of the residents," she adds. "We're doing our best to celebrate all the pieces of her!"

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