Over 200 seniors sat down to eat a Thanksgiving meal at the Newport 60+ Activity Center on Sunday, Nov. 24, and 60 more received a special Thanksgiving plate through Meals With Wheels. According to Center Coordinator Peggy O’Callaghan, this special meal has been prepared annually for over three decades. This year’s Senior Thanksgiving was made possible through the partnership of many local groups: the Newport Young Professionals group cooked the meal, the Newport Eagles donated funds to purchase the turkeys, Chalet Restaurant and Bakery donated the pumpkin pies and Girl Scout Troop 10099 served plates and bussed tables.
In the activity center’s kitchen on Saturday, the Young Professionals prepared for the big day, making 100 pounds of potatoes, 18 turkeys and a multitude of green beans and sweet potatoes. The group has cooked the meal for eight years as of 2019.
“One of my favorite parts is when people tell us how much they appreciate it,” said Julia Ryan, who coordinates the group for the Newport Chamber of Commerce. “We had this lady come up and say this was Thanksgiving meal she would have this year. So it’s really cool to see that we get to bring people together and serve them, so they get to enjoy Thanksgiving.”
“I love this community event,” said O’Callaghan. “It brings people together in a variety of different ways; sometimes strangers sit across from strangers. They meet new people. They share a meal. It’s a wonderful event. It connects people.”
That community spirit is part of what brings so many seniors back to the event. Though some of the diners voiced other reasons as well. When asked what brought them back this year, Pam Gill replied, “The little kids work so hard, they need someone to serve. They look so cute, and they get so excited about it. You have to come and give them a chance to do it.”
Girl Scout Troop 10099, led by Betty Kamikawa, has served the meal at this event for around 10 years total, and many agreed that the Girl Scouts make the event particularly special.
“We have so much fun every year,” said Kamikawa. “They work hard.”
This year, in addition to the scouts, there were some brothers and sisters who helped out. With a chuckle, Kamikawa called it “a family affair.” Around 15 children helped carry plates to and from the tables where diners ate on placemats that were individually colored by the Girl Scouts.
Gill’s dining partner, Tom Frazier explained his reason for returning to the meal this year simply: “The food,” he said with a smile. Though, he later added, “And community might have something to do with it.”