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Tualatin police dance, chat with senior citizens at Valentine's Day event

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The police chief and others came to Marquis Tualatin Assisted Living for a holiday ball.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Police Officer Shawn Fischer visits with Marquis Tualatin Assisted Living residents Betty Charters, left, and Dorothy Shelton during a Valentine's Day ball at the retirement facility.A handful of attendees got up and cut a rug — but when Tualatin police officers and staff visited elderly residents at Marquis Tualatin Assisted Living for a Valentine's Day ball, they mostly just sat, talked and enjoyed each others' company.

Police Chief Bill Steele, who joined the department last summer after spending close to two decades with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, said he had participated in a similar event last year and wanted to bring the seniors' ball to Tualatin.

"I thought it was a great opportunity for us to just spend some time with … a part of the community that we don't have an opportunity to talk to every single day," Steele said. "And, you know, it gives them an opportunity to get to know their police department a little bit better and ask any questions that they might have about what we do every day, and it's nice to just get to know people and hear a little bit about they've got (happening) in their lives."

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Police Officer Shawn Fischer dances with Manzar Baradar, a resident at Marquis Tualatin Assisted Living, during a Valentine's Day ball.Many of the seniors who showed up for Tuesday's ball were not physically able to get on their feet and dance — they came in wheelchairs and mobility carts or with walkers.

Dorothy Shelton said she was actually glad to have an excuse not to dance. Asked whether she enjoyed dancing, she pursed her lips and shook her head.

"My husband was a terrible dancer," she said conspiratorially.

Even still, Shelton said she wanted to come out to the ball.

"Oh, I just wanted to see everybody and everything, and see the guys dancing," she said with a smile. "It's going to be nice. It's a nice thing."

Shelton and her friends were joined at their table by Officer Shawn Fischer, who seemed to be having a good time talking to the seniors and listening to their stories.

Fischer was "very nice," Shelton said.

"Just to come and sit with us is really nice, I think," she told him.

That was just fine with Steele.

"It's an opportunity for us to come to them," he said. "We don't have that expectation where they're going to come visit us. It allows us to get to an area that they have an opportunity to frequent, and if we can help, in any way, to help facilitate getting them a little bit of time to either dance or just listen to music, or just talk or chat with somebody here, that's what we're looking for. … Really, we're here to do whatever people would like to do."

The event was sponsored by AgeRight Advantage. Police donated their staff time, and A Sound Choice Entertainment provided a disc jockey who spun oldie standards like Frank Sinatra's "I've Got the World on a String."

Marilyn Brault-Binaghi, Marquis Tualatin Assisted Living's activities director, said Marquis staff "try to do an event for every holiday."

"This one's bigger than some of our other ones," she said, adding, "It's just kind of like a good break from their routine. … We have a lot of couples here, so it's kind of nice to have something for them to celebrate together, and it kind of gives us another reason to get everybody out who wouldn't necessarily come to a particular activity like cribbage or something."

Brault-Binaghi said she has found that if a resident comes out to a social event once, they'll keep coming back.

"Socializing really helps them," she said.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - From left, Fran Rycewicz and Elmer Ballard, residents of Marquis Tualatin Assisted Living, dance at a Valentine's Day ball at the facility.