Memories of a Southern feast kept Madeline Permasse, a Texas transplant, content early Wednesday afternoon, despite the 1,500-mile gap between Santa Maria and the Lone Star State.
As she cut her turkey and scooped up a heap of mashed potatoes that had spilled onto her green beans, Permasse revealed a secret: She has a soft spot for turkey stuffing.
"The veggies, mashed potatoes and turkey are all good" she said between bites, "but I have a recipe [for cornbread stuffing] that I got from my mother-in-law during my first marriage 45 years ago. I made it for my children and now my grandchildren and they all love it — it's special for our family."
Joined by Leon, her second husband of 14 years, the couple sat at a table in Santa Maria's Elwin Mussell Senior Center to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Provided by the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County as part of their daily meal program for seniors, the Permasses were two of roughly 60 seniors that turned out to the senior center for an afternoon of food, friends and festivities.
"We're giving them a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for lunch," said Barbara Wiley, recreation coordinator with Santa Maria's Recreation and Parks Department. "For some of our seniors, this might be their only celebration; they can come and be with their peers and still bask in the festivities. "
While the program runs Monday through Friday at 13 senior centers throughout Santa Barbara County, Wiley said volunteers and recreation staff worked to make Wednesday afternoon's luncheon special. In addition to the holiday-themed feast, the gathering featured games, prizes and live music courtesy of the Santa Maria High School Jazz Band.
"We thought it was a great opportunity to be out in the community and give back," said Samantha Quart, band director at Santa Maria High School. Quart said she received an email asking if the band would be interested in performing during the luncheon a few weeks back, and was confident that the band would be up for the show despite being on vacation.
"We had two, two-hour rehearsals over the last two days for our performance today," she said, "but they knew it was for a good cause."
As the Jazz Band alternated between Christmas standards and other festive arrangements, volunteers from the Boys and Girls Club's Keystone Club shuffled between tables to deliver plates. Jessica Byrne, director for Teen Programs and Outreach with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Maria Valley, said it is important for youth to become more conscious about what is happening in their community and how to provide a service to those who need it.
"We came out to give back to the community," Byrne said, adding that the event was an opportunity to mix youth with an older generation. "It's important for [youth] to value all members of the community, and learn the importance of volunteering and giving back to those in it."