PONCHATOULA — About 80 senior citizens were offered an early holiday meal on Nov. 18 when the Ponchatoula Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs joined together to treat their guests to a full Thanksgiving dinner at the Kiwanis Log Cabin.
The elderly honorees from the Ponchatoula area are all recipients of services offered by the Tangipahoa Volunteer Council on Aging’s Ponchatoula Center.
Paula Dunn, director of the center, said of the special meal, “this is truly a blessing. Many seniors live alone and many cannot make their own meals so we supply them with meals. But today is special…all of our clients get to be together for a really great, very special meal and I know they are enjoying the food and the chance to visit with each other.”
In welcoming the seniors to the Thanksgiving dinner, Ponchatoula Kiwanis President Brian Steib said that offering them the holiday meal was something that Kiwanians looked forward to every year. “We take this opportunity, at this special time of the year, to say ‘thank you’ for what you did for our city during your productive years. This is our way of giving a little something back to you for what you have done for Ponchatoula.”
Ponchatoula Rotary President Jeff Wright said it was an honor to host a gathering of older residents who are “still very much a part of our community. You are special to us, to your children, grandchildren, relatives and friends and we count it a privilege to hold this dinner in your honor.”
In an interview, Steib said that hosting the seniors Thanksgiving treat was “at the top of the list of what we do in our community. Throughout the year, our club serves the citizens of Ponchatoula in many ways, but doing something nice for our senior citizens is a special treat. You can see that all the people here today are really having a good time and the smiles on all their faces is their way of showing appreciation for this treat.”
Wright said that while the special meal is a way to honor the elderly, it also affords Rotarians and Kiwanians the opportunity to join together in a project that is greatly appreciated.
The two clubs have been holding the Thanksgiving dinners for many years and they divide the responsibility of bringing the meal together. The typical Thanksgiving meal included turkey, dressing, gravy, green beans, yams, cranberry sauce, rolls and pumpkin and pecan pies.
“This is truly a special day for us, especially for those of us who live by ourselves,” said senior Starr Bernier. “It’s just wonderful to be together and to visit with old friends that we don’t see very often. The food is just great and is something we look forward to every year. Right now, this is a heavenly place to be and I feel like we are all one big, happy family.”
A friend sitting across from Bernier, Janet Dennis, praised the two clubs for hosting the event. “What a great social gathering this is,” Dennis said. “We are all together, having a good time and enjoying a wonderful meal. The Kiwanis and Rotary clubs treat us just great and I know we all appreciate this special day.”
Rose Ann Husser, treasurer for the Kiwanis Club and coordinator of the event, said visiting with the elderly was a special treat because it reminded her of her late grandmother, Ethel Berner. Besides Husser, Berner’s son, two grandsons and two great-grandchildren have all been involved with Kiwanis. “My grandmother loved to cook and she loved to help other people. Our family has long been involved with Kiwanis, and helping out senior citizens is one aspect of Kiwanis that holds special meaning for me,” she said.
Kiwanian Shelly McNemar said that she enjoyed treating the elderly to the special meal because it was a way of giving back to senior citizens who helped sustain Ponchatoula during their active years. “Our reward is to just look at all the happy faces having such a good time being together and enjoying such a great treat. It makes you proud to be a member of our organization,” she said.
Members of the two clubs stood side-by-side on the serving line and at the meal’s end, the two clubs joined together in cleaning the historic Kiwanis Log Cabin. After the clenaup, though, the day’s work was not over for the Kiwanis Club members. To complete their tribute to senior citizens, Kiwanians left the Log Cabin to deliver baskets of food to every resident of a senior living center.
“With that, our day will be complete. … It takes a lot of work but it’s worth all the effort. It just feels good to know that you have made so many wonderful people so happy,” Steib said.