Life Care Center of Valparaiso has grown an event that shows our country’s enduring love affair with cars. 

But is it cars that bring the community together with residents, or the fellowship?

Angie Monahan, the Indiana facility’s director of business development, said the key to any such event is the latter.

Twice a year for the last two years, the facility has held its car show. The most recent edition featured 20 cars from the Winamac Old Auto Club. The shows have become so popular with the larger community that next year’s second show will host cars from any Valparaiso residents instead of the club only.

Monahan, Admissions Director Kim Koenig and Maintenance Director Jamie Janeczko set up tables and grill hot dogs on event day. The cars are displayed in the main parking lot of the 110-bed building, so residents and community members can mingle and talk about them.

“We’ve had the cars, now the community is coming,” Monahan said of the eight-year-old event. “That’s such a huge bonus because they get to see how our staff works with the residents. They get to meet the residents. One came up to me and said, ‘You know, this is where the history’s at, talking to the residents,’ and I said, ‘Absolutely. If you want a history lesson, you come and talk to the residents.’”

Monahan has increased awareness with marketing by e-mailing senior centers and assisted living facilities and churches and the local chamber of commerce. She plugs the shows on her personal Facebook account and LCCA helps with notices on the corporate Facebook page.

The events run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the hot dogs, water, soda and chips are free. Monahan said the most crucial part of the planning is ensuring there’s space for not only the cars on display but parking for visitors.

Janeczko has a Dukes of Hazzard-type car in the shows, and so does a family of one of the residents.

“It’s so important for the community to feel welcome,” she said. “That’s why we do the lunch. We feel like to come and break bread makes people feel welcome. So we really focus on something simple to give back to the community, to have them walk around for a while to have them visit.

“If you have every spot taken, they have nowhere to park, they can’t stay and chat. Make sure you have the space available for the community to park and for families to park.”

So, yes, it’s about cars — but also the people who drive them, and those who used to. Monahan said one resident saw a car from the 1940s and it reminded her of her dad running moonshine when she was a girl.

“The reminiscence is so important,” Monahan noted.