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Songfellows Receive Service Award

n Arlington senior men's a cappella group, the Songfellows, was recognized during a ceremony at the 2004 Governor's Community Service and Volunteerism Awards in Richmond on Sept. 1. The group, currently consisting of 15 senior adult men, was recognized in the category of outstanding government programs.

The Songfellows, sponsored by the office of Senior Adult Programs at the Arlington County Department of Recreation, have been performing in and around Arlington for the past 25 years. Last year, they gave 27 concerts for local senior centers, churches and civic groups. Carlton Blake, the group's music director and supervisor, has been with the Songfellows for the past four years.

"I am fortunate to have the opportunity to direct them," Blake said of the group, "and even more fortunate to have them as friends."

The Songfellows' mission is to bring joy to senior citizens, who are often unable to attend concerts. "We perform to see the enjoyment older people get when they can't get out to shows," explained Jim Yohe, who has been with the Songfellows for the past three years.

Although the Songfellows have a minimum age requirement of 55, their members range in age from 66 to 94. Two visually impaired members sing with the group. "They're a great group. When they go around to retirement residents, they give these folks a good lift. Not only is the music good, but they're seniors themselves. They're inspirational," said Judy Massabny, director of communication for the Arlington County Office of Senior Adult Programs.

The Songfellows meet for practice Thursday mornings at the Culpepper Garden Senior Center.