Senior dinner embraces holiday spirit

BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The Gathering of Women, Inc. held their inaugural senior Christmas dinner last Sat., Dec. 19 at the Harbordale YMCA.  The special occasion was a celebration to honor and embrace our seniors who have contributed wholeheartedly to their loved ones and the community throughout the years.

“The idea for the senior Christmas dinner came about because the Gathering of Women felt that when Christmas time rolls around, many seniors have no one with which to celebrate the holiday season,” explained Chairperson Samantha Richardson.

She encourages all to include older ones in on the holiday cheer. Since many people are focusing on the kids this time of the year, seniors can be overlooked.

The young-at-heart seniors were treated to a bountiful dinner of fried chicken, ham, rice, macaroni salad, green beans and salad. Each guest was served by a member of the organization as these honored guests were treated with respect as the elders of the community.

Laughter could be heard throughout the room as it was an opportunity for the seniors to come together and reminisce with old friends and make new acquaintances.

“It’s an opportunity to meet people I’ve never seen before,” said guest Steve Wynn.

 Bertha Jones echoed the same sentiment and said she was a “person who goes out to mingle,” while Sadie Martin said, “I love people.”

The seniors expressed their gratitude in being included in the celebration. “I don’t get out much,” Viola Gordon commented. “I was excited I was asked to come.”

Vestell Nelson was invited by Josephine Lampley, one of the Gathering of Women committee members. Nelson and Lampley are fellow members of   New Jerusalem Baptist Church. “I’m always happy to come out,” Nelson said. “She [Lampley] treats me as part of her family.”

The program included a reading of the “Christmas Story” by seven-year-old Zaria Albritton. Zaria is a member of the Flower Girl program, which was founded by the Gathering of Women. Named after School Board member Rene Flowers, the program fosters life lessons, self-respect and empowerment of young black girls.

The appreciative audience was invited to sing Christmas carols while accompanied by keyboardist Nancy Mims. Santa, portrayed by Austin Watson, was there resplendent in his red suit. He said he likes playing Santa to see the sparkle in the children’s eyes. As for playing Santa for the seniors, he laughed and said that he too would soon be a senior himself.

Gift bags, donated by all of the committee members and spearheaded by Renee Ambrose were chock full of personal items and passed out to the guests.

“We truly appreciate the opportunity to bring seniors together for a holiday meal,” said Richardson. “We care for this population and want the seniors to know they are part of a community and a resource for everyone.

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