Thanksgiving Community Dinner highlights holiday spirit

Norma Aguilar, center, and her husband, Juan, left, are served turkey at the annual Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the City of Santa Clarita and Parkway Motors at the Newhall Community Center on Monday. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Two nights after Six Flags Magic Mountain lit its holiday lights for the first time this season, Santa Clarita continued another holiday tradition on Monday night with the annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Newhall Community Center.

Some 340 people had checked in by 6 p.m., and more than 500 were expected to turn out overall for the catered fare of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and all the traditional trimmings.

“It’s a Thanksgiving community event, a chance for everybody to break bread together,” said Darlene D’Amico of Santa Clarita’s Community Services department, and one of the event’s organizers.

And a diverse community it was – from members of the Santa Clarita Senior Center to kids from the Newhall Community Center, from families with grandparents to families with little ones still in baby carriers, from neighborhood residents to homeless people.

All joined together in the holiday spirit.

“Friendship,” Tina Silvers of Castaic said when asked what brought her and her children to the event with two other families they know from the area. “It’s to join our families together.”

“I’m happy for the good food,” said Senior Center member Lucila Orozco as she dined with her friend, Ana Romero.

Said Hope Horner, Santa Clarita’s community services administrator: “It’s just an opportunity for community members to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with other community members and set the tone for the holiday season.’’

Horner said that, for the eighth straight year, the event was sponsored by Parkway Motors, which paid for the meals. The food was prepared by Valencia’s Catering by Charlie.

“It’s definitely about giving back to the community,” said Steven Keefe, co-owner of Parkway Motors, which also sponsors the Santa Clarita Marathon and various park concerts through the year.

“This is probably, of anything we do, the best thing,’’ Keefe added. “Over the years, you see the same faces – it’s very nice.

“There’s a lot of families, a lot of elderly people. You’ll see people dress up in their Sunday best.”

Horner said local volunteers from the Triumph Foundation (a non-profit that helps people with spinal injuries) as well as the Community Center’s iTeens group helped serve the food and boost the holiday spirit.

And what would a holiday gathering be without music?

That was covered by John Swinford, performance arts coordinator with the senior center, who tickled the ivories with a mix of holiday and non-holiday tunes.

The dinner has attracted between 450 and 500 people the last few years, “and it keeps growing,” Keefe said.

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