LATHROP – When it comes to thinking up ideas that not only involve the community but benefit the Lathrop Senior Center, site director Chris Lawrence has no problem straying outside of the box.
First there’s the massive barbecue competition that he helped institute that drew hundreds of people to Valverde Park last month for a day of fun-in-the-sun. It is an event that Lawrence helped organize with assistance of Senior Advisory Commission to create a “signature” event for the city.
Now, with the help of assistant Debra Wheale, he’s working on putting together an elaborate haunted house that will center around a crashed alien spacecraft – going into great detail to make the event, which is being designed to raise money to help pay for a new sound system and Blu-ray disc player for the seniors, realistic and entertaining for those who come.
It’s something that he’s wanted to do for years. After learning that the seniors themselves used to host an annual haunted house until ceasing it a decade ago he figured it would be a good time to rekindle the tradition.
“When I ran an organization in Stockton they wouldn’t let me do it, and when I went to work at the Salvation Army they wouldn’t let me do it either,” Lawrence said with a laugh. “When I learned that the seniors used to do this I thought it would good to bring it back, but to take it three steps further.
“Everybody looks at me like I’m crazy, but I think that this is going to be something that people are really going to enjoy.”
While the obligatory space ship crash scene and alien autopsy are planned, Lawrence is planning on writing a script with an elaborate storyline that will correspond with a 10 to 15-minute tour – adding things like an Area 51 briefing room and a passport that will need to be stamped to get through to add to the level of excitement.
His grand plans, he says, are to create something that the families and the kids of Lathrop can enjoy that will benefit the Lathrop Senior Center – keeping entertainment dollars right here in town.
“Basically I’m a creative person. I used to run distressed organizations and it was really stressful,” Lawrence said. “This is kind of my retirement job. I enjoy putting on these events, and at 61-year-old, I want to create a legacy. I want the barbecue and the haunted house to outlive me and be something that this community looks forward to each and every year.”
So far Lawrence has shored up Monday, Oct. 31 as a guaranteed night for the haunted house, and is still working out some of the logistics – price, time and what will be included.
But he’s already gotten the support of his superiors as well as Lathrop Elementary Principal David Silveira, and hopes to add Sunday, October 30 as the opening night – giving two nights of revenue instead of one. He’s also working on securing sponsors, and plans on reaching out to the Lathrop Road gas station famous for its alien theme.
“We’re really optimistic about what this can become,” he said. “Doing things here that get the support of the community is what we’re shooting for. You shouldn’t have to go out of town to have fun, and this will be good, family fun.”