11th Annual Thanksgiving Luncheon for Seniors is another success

Vallejo Times Herald
by Katy St. Clair

“Life is too serious to be solemn,” laughed Jack Finnigan, a Vallejo resident who was more than happy to be enjoying the Thanksgiving Luncheon provided by Vallejo Together and SolTrans on Thursday.

Finnigan is 69 and happy to have someone else cook. The microwave isn’t just his friend, he joked, “it’s my love.”

He and dozens more came to the Moose Lodge to celebrate the holiday and chit-chat with neighbors.

The hall was bedecked with festive balloons, centerpieces, and a little Frank Sinatra playing in the background. Place mats that read “We Love Our Seniors” were at each chair and cards created by children also adorned each table. They said things like, “I give you a hug,” and “You are special.”

Though billed as an event for seniors, no one was turned away.

Letitia, 61, has a developmental disability and came with her caregiver. She was very focused on her turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy meal, but would occasionally look up and offer a shy smile.

Fifty nine-year-old Tonni Wakefield brought her 91-year-old father, Ray Miessek. Miessek has been coming to these dinners for three years he said, though they’ve been held for 11 years now.

Wakefield said her favorite dish is steak and lobster, but she was thankful to be getting turkey. “I’m thankful for God, first and foremost,” she said. “Then I’m thankful for my being, and that I can function daily.”

She said that she thinks we are in the “end times,” and now more than ever it’s important to be thankful for what we have. She talked about “the jackals,” and “the people that are in power ... They devour.”

Wakefield said that she was also thankful that her father was still with her.

The hall was filled with many people for whom English was not a first language, so the prayer was given in Tagalog as well, something 79-year-old Rosario Padua appreciated. She beamed through bites of turkey. There were almost as many volunteers as there were guests, from Girl Scout Troop 20067, to the folks from the Eric Reyes Foundation, to students from Touro University, to Vallejo Together.

Vallejo Together is a nonprofit that provides homeless and other community outreach. Some of their volunteers are called “navigators” and they help people get a leg up. “Ruby” was just such a person, and she said that she loves the organization. Ruby volunteered at the dinner as a way to pay them back.

“I’m getting back on my feet,” she said with confidence. Ruby said that she was spun into a 23-year long depression after having a successful dancing career. It took her a long time to dig her way out and build her self-esteem back up, she said, but Vallejo Together has been a big part of her change.

“When you are homeless, just surviving each day is hard,” she said. Currently she is living in a warehouse with no running water, so she depends on the shower services offered by Vallejo Together.

“The navigators are there for you, but you have to want the help,” she said. Ruby had a lot to say about homelessness, but her main message was that it could happen to anyone. “Many of us are one paycheck away from it,” she said. “It’s a societal problem. Anyone can be homeless.”

Ron Potts has also seen his fair share of hardship, being a Vietnam veteran. But he said “life is good,” and this was his third year enjoying this Thanksgiving event. He also enjoys being a part of the veteran community in town. 

“More tea?” asked 10-year-old Eli from Benicia, who was volunteering with his mom. He was enjoying himself, he said.

“It’s cool that people come to help other people who might need a little more help,” he said.

Vallejo Together is located at 51 Daniels Avenue in Vallejo and can be reached at (707) 655-5381.

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