by Cheryl Senn
The Sanger Rotary Club’s 34th Annual Jim Craig Memorial Christmas Luncheon to honor the area’s senior citizens recently took place at the Sanger Community Center. In addition to the traditional free holiday lunch, seniors were entertained by Latin pop star Marilyn Fernandez. Santa visited with seniors while assisting with handing out Christmas gifts to winning ticket holders.
According to Sanger Rotary Club president-elect and event chairman, Richard Luce, more than 475 seniors attended the lunch. Luce said the club was estimating between 300-400 people and the event surpassed that estimate. “We had some people from Parlier, we had some people from Clovis and Selma also, that I know of. So, we actually reached out to a broader area than Sanger itself.”
In a press release, Sanger Rotary Club president George Bennett said the event is part of Sanger Rotary’s rich tradition of putting service above self.
With 50 Rotarians, 100 members of the Sanger High Interact Club, Rotary District 5230 Governor Shirley Grace, City of Sanger officials and members from the local Wal-Mart team, there were more than enough volunteers to serve the lunch guests. The Sanger High Interact Club is a part of the Sanger Rotary Club on the Sanger High School campus.
Luce said more than 300 gifts were donated by businesses and organizations. Gifts included monetary gift cards, sweaters and blankets. Home Instead Senior Care representatives made and delivered quilts to the oldest male and oldest female veteran who attended the lunch. “It’s something they’ve done the past couple of years,” said Luce. “They try and recognize the veterans that have been with us for a long time. Just to recognize them and say they are not forgotten.”
Fernandez sang five song selections for those in attendance. Seniors could be seen singing along to the songs and as Fernandez walked around the community center, some seniors got up and danced with her. Fernandez said she was excited about performing for the senior lunch. “I am really grateful to all the seniors. They have played an important role in Sanger.”
As Fernandez began one of her song selections, she said to the senior lunch guests,”Every one of you, here today, is a hero.”
Fernandez also donated two gift baskets that were part of the gift giveaway. Sherrie Carter was one of the gift basket winners and was very happy to receive music and other items handpicked by Fernandez.
Sanger High Interact Club volunteers were happy to serve food, drinks and to hand out gifts. Kyle Lee and Alijah Quezada, Sanger High Interact Club members, said they enjoyed serving the seniors at the lunch. “They deserve it. It is their time to relax,” said Lee.
The holiday luncheon opening ceremony began with the Presentation of Colors by AMVETS Post 98 and the singing of the National Anthem by Alton Maynor.
Luce said it took 10 months to plan and organize the annual event. “We worked on it for 10 months, different portions of it. Some of it is something that the club has done for years. Just making sure we contacted our groups, our senior living centers and where we could actually reach out to the community more.”
The focus of the event was to give to the community and help people feel the holiday spirit. “Cuz this time of year there are so many people who don’t have that holiday spirit and don’t have the families and don’t have that togetherness, the bond,” continued Luce. “Just to give them that joyful feeling this time of year, where, otherwise, they may not get it.”
Many of the seniors in attendance said they thought the luncheon was one of the best ones they have attended. Rose McCloud, a senior luncheon guest, said, “It was the best one yet.”
There was a lot of left over food from the event and Sanger Rotary Club donated the food to the local non-profit organization, H.O.P.E. Sanger, which would benefit those that are less fortunate and the homeless. “So, not only did the program help the seniors, but it also helped the community, with our less fortunate, in the community, as well,” said Luce.
The club motto of “Service Above Self,” is something that the club truly tries to live out through events such as this. The giving of local businesses and large number of volunteers helped to make the lunch a success. “Because without the community, without the support of the community, it wouldn’t have happened,” Luce said.
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