AFTER HOURS: Onie's big birthday bash benefit

While shoppers and art aficionados took advantage of the extended hours on First Friday this month, Onie Sanders was popping in and out of shops reminding everyone she met to show up the following Saturday night for her annual benefit for Habitat for Humanity at the City Auditorium. This is the 10th year Sanders has single-handedly orchestrated an evening of music and good food with all the proceeds going to Habitat.

It all started with a conversation with her dad about a special way to celebrate their birthdays -- her 40th and his 81st. Sanders saved enough money for a really big event but, unfortunately, her father did not live to attend the first birthday bash held at the Douglass Theatre, when 500 attended and there were only a few tables for those who could not stand all night.

This year, the ground level tables at the auditorium were full and there were still people standing in the aisles. Teddi Wohlford, owner of Culinary Creations, has been catering the event since the beginning, providing her delicious cuisine for the crowds that know her reputation for keeping them happily sated for a night on the dance floor.

Deejay Laura Starling opened with her lively spin of danceable music while everyone found their tables and finished off dinner before the A2Z Band took over for the rest of the evening, playing a mix of oldies and top 40 favorites for the mix of young and old dancers and listeners.

Sanders is the senior radiology technician in the surgery center at Navicent Health, but could easily have a second career as emcee and raconteur -- she knows how to entertain the troops.

Dressed in a gown provided by Karats and Keepsakes, one of her sponsors, she welcomed her guests, thanked them for their continued support and recognized the other sponsors that make it possible for all proceeds to go to her favorite charity.


To get in the door, Sanders charged $25 for dinner and music and asked that everyone donate one non-perishable food item for The Middle Georgia Community Food Bank, another of her pet projects. She partners with other private initiatives that share her mindset for giving back to her hometown.

Sgt. Jose Julkes' day job is with the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department; he is also a member of The Flaming Knights Motorcycle Club, many of whom joined him for Sanders' party this year and. Sanders, who never forgets the people who helped her launch what is now an annual celebration, bragged on Bashinski Jewelers for being the first business to offer financial support after her first party at the Douglass. She publicly thanked Bola and Felix Sogade, Swan Sewell and Sanjiwan Tarabadkar, physicians with whom she works at Navicent Health, and Urology Associates, another event sponsor each year.

Sanders gives guests their money's worth and more. With a final flourish before leaving the stage, she said, "I have looked forward to saying this one year -- I sold out the Macon City Auditorium!" Habitat's one-woman dynamo has her eyes trained on the balcony for next year.


Until the end of this month, the Gallery at Macon Arts Alliance on First Street is featuring some of Middle Georgia's finest artists and the students they have taken under their wings. Curator for the show, Diane Mead, fine arts instructor in the upper school at Mount de Sales Academy, invited Eric O'Dell, assistant professor of art at Mercer University, and Martha Tisdale, a popular painter in Macon, to join her with their paintings and with those of aspiring artists for a diverse display of media in the gallery.

At the First Friday opening of the show, Anya Silver, who teaches in the English department at Mercer, read some poetry selections from her two published books, "I Watched You Disappear" and "The Ninety-Third Name of God," some of which re-count her journey through treatment for cancer and the collateral effects on her, her family and her friends.

ChoOsing from current and past students' work, the mentors selected some of the best examples of the evolution of an artist. O'Dell said he strives to make his students see things differently, to interpret their surroundings with abandon, while Mead wants her protégés to have a lifelong appreciation for the arts in all of its expressions. She is a painter and potter who organizes shows that feature one- and three-dimensional art and how each augments the other.

Nina Sandefur, a photographer and one of Mead's students, is just one of many young artists whose work is outstanding and bodes well for her future.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or