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A grateful gathering

SCV Senior Center offers meals, brings together the hungry of all ages for Thanksgiving feast

Posted: November 25, 2010 8:04 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Trudy Fetzner, of Newhall, enjoys a Thanksgiving Day feast at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall on Thursday. The center fed dozens of people of all ages and more than 180 seniors who requested meals ahead of time.

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Before Don Ferguson tucked into his Thanksgiving Day dinner of mashed potatoes and turkey at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, two boys on the Valencia High School football team sat down at his table.

“I looked at them, and then I asked them, ‘Are you volunteers, or are you in trouble?’ And then we just started talking. We talked for more than half an hour, and they never looked bored,” he said.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’m 78 years old, and it didn’t seem like we were on two different levels,” he said. “A half hour went by just like that.”

All around the dining room of the Market Street community center, similar of joy and love, respect and gratitude, played out between young and old.

A young Girl Scout wearing a green badge-covered vest delivered a tray of steaming hot turkey, stuffing, potatoes and cranberries to a smiling white-haired woman who, with her arm around the girl, just wanted to talk before eating.

Volunteer Susan Felber, who went table to table filling water glasses, learned first-hand that the seniors waiting quietly for their meals are far from faceless strangers.

“At one of the tables, I stopped and said, ‘You were my teacher at Meadows Elementary School when I was there in fifth grade.’ Then he showed me all of his pictures,” Felber said. “I’m very happy to see he has a community of friends.”

In the seconds before her tray of Thanksgiving dinner was put in front of her, Joyce Quinn said: “My mother used to come here 30 some odd years ago when everyone was back East.”

Quinn, now with white hair herself but still with a Brooklyn accent, said she moved to Santa Clarita Valley when she inherited her mother’s condominium.

“This is even more exciting than I remember because there’s so many more young people this year,” she said. “They always had young people, but now there’s even more of them.”

Sue Updegraft is the volunteer who got on the phone and began recruiting young people when Thanksgiving Day dinner organizer Flo Lawrence of the Castaic Lions Club called her.

“We believe one prayer is good, but we believe also that two prayers are better,” Lawrence said just before he officially opened this year’s Thanksgiving Day feast at the senior center.

“Let’s eat,” he said, stepping off the stage to meet a hungry grateful crowd.

“Sue here got all these kids together,” he said of Updegraft.

“We all came together as a community to support our seniors,” said Updegraft in turn.

Kathy Crone, executive director of the senior center, fought back tears.

“Look at all these happy faces,” Crone said. “It’s hard to hold back tears.”

James Morgan, executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Committee on Aging Corp., called the feast “the most important meal of the year.”

At least 180 seniors signed up for the Thanksgiving Day meal in advance, he said.

“What’s extraordinary is that they all could be doing other Thanksgiving things on their own,” said volunteer Allan Cameron about the young people volunteering.

Talented teenage musicians from local high schools provided nonstop singing at the piano from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., creating a moving, heart-felt soundtrack for seniors as they ate and chatted.

“I wasn’t sure what I was signing up for at first,” said jazz pianist Rachel Cantrell of West Ranch High School. “But it’s fun playing for this kind of audience.”

Cantrell and half a dozen other student musicians — Joey Hernandez, Miky Tayoba and Valerie Magallanes of Hart High School; Kendall Thompson of North Park Elementary School; Jasmine Watkins of West Ranch; and Gabi Garcia of Saugus High School — were all recruited by Hart singer-songwriter Shannen Roberts.

“Sue Updegraft called me and asked if anyone from our musicians and songwriters club could perform, and I said ‘Sure,’” Roberts said.

When Don Ferguson finished his meal, the local put down his fork and reflected on the last four times he’s spent visiting the SCV Senior Center.

“This is the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had here,” he said.

“If I ever win the lottery, at the top of my list is giving money to this place. They obviously fill a need.”


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