Rekindling a Christmas Eve excitement that might have been previously lost decades ago, the Bella Vida Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center freely distributed more than 1,200 meals to a procession of smiling faces on Thursday.
Expecting 600 cars to come through for the day, Kevin MacDonald, the executive director for the Senior Center, said each vehicle would be going home with a turkey dinner for today, a hot ham dinner for tomorrow, as well as a bag full of goodies for the visiting seniors to enjoy.
“Our seniors are the most vulnerable during this pandemic, and they’re also the most isolated,” said MacDonald. “And this is our opportunity to give back to them and share a little love during the holidays.”
During the drive-thru, cars wound their way through the senior center parking lot before pulling to the front of the campus’s main building, receiving their meal on a 6-foot-long cart controlled by staff and then would drive off.
The holiday event was not out of the ordinary for the Senior Center, which has been serving meals throughout the year in a similar fashion, making sure that this vulnerable local population has food during this time.
“If we can make them smile … they’re smiling back and they’re very grateful,” said MacDonald. “They’re all so grateful to get a fresh meal, a hot meal for free, and in the safety of their car, which is so important right now.”
In order to make the day possible and accommodate the large demand, the Senior Center was able to expand its staff with people who have a culinary background, MacDonald said.
“I love the camaraderie at the Senior Center,” said Bubba Vunder, one of the patrons of the Senior Center on Thursday. “They’re really nice people, and it’s great to see them too.”
Volunteering as a family unit during the Christmas Eve event were members of the Hartmann family, of Canyon Country. Tom Hartman said he, his wife and daughter, Jackie and Keri, have come out to assist the Senior Center for a handful of years, and thought it important to come out to volunteer, especially now.
“I would volunteer every day, all year, if I could, but certainly this time of year, when people really need these meals,” said Hartmann. “Fundamentally, eating is so obviously important anytime of the year, but especially during this time of year it’s a little bit more special for many of these people.”
“This is the highlight of the year for them when they have an opportunity to have a Christmas dinner,” he added.