By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — There was an aura of sheer happiness in the Senior Citizens Center Friday morning, Dec. 17. Despite a dreary day outside, everyone inside was smiling, and a warmth engulfed everyone in the Center. Some was due to the holiday season, but much of that excitement came from the Center’s annual full Christmas potluck dinner, and everyone involved simply cherished the camaraderie and fellowship with their fellow seniors.
The event was held at 11:30 a.m., but there was activity at the Center well into the afternoon. At nearly 2 p.m., Director Serena Welch sits in her office to take it all in.
“It was so awesome, so amazing. We had so much fun,” she said. “It humbles your heart. Our community is such a blessing to each other, that we can come together and celebrate Christmas.”
The Senior Center has potluck meals at least once a month. Meals serve as a way for the community to come together in fellowship over a home-cooked meal. The Center, or one of its volunteers, provides the meat, while patrons are asked to bring a side or dessert.
“It is a tradition at the Center that we have a Thanksgiving and Christmas potluck,” Welch said.
The holiday potlucks are the most special, as it allows Seniors a chance to celebrate with their peers, especially when they may not have family close by.
“A lot of them are without spouses and family to be with, so it is important for them to be able to be with their friends and community during the holiday season,” she said.
The 2021 dinner was no different, as the Center provided more than enough ham for those attending, and a long row of tables was covered in colorful side dishes. A row of desserts had their own line in front of the kitchen.
Patrons began arriving well before the 11:30 start time, taking up a place at their favorite table, while members of local band,”Just Us,” began warming up for holiday music. The band performs the first and third Fridays at the Friday night dance at 6:30 p.m., performing a variety of Gospel and classic country and rock styles.
“They are not from Newkirk, but they’ve played in the Center for years,” Welch said. “They play at other senior events, too – Ponca City, Arkansas City.”
Prior to the meal Welch and other Center volunteers received special thank you Christmas cards from Senior Inc., an organization that helps with Center operations.
“Senior, Inc. is a board that oversees our Center,” Welch said. “They have fundraisers every year, and the money they raise, they pour back into the Senior Center.”
The funding is available for any Center need.
“Anything I need, they provide it with the fundraiser,” Welch said.
Also on-site was Angel Care Home Health for health checks.
“Tracey Newlin is so good for our community. Anything you need, you contact her,” Welch said. “We appreciate everything (Angel Care) does for our center.”
Center patrons soon sat down to the meal, with many going back for seconds or take out for loved ones who couldn’t attend.
If the 2021 potluck was unique, as they held their first-ever pie fundraiser, with many people baking homemade pies to auction for Center needs. The event was spearheaded by Charlotte Sutton.
Many were staples, such as apple or cherry, but some had their own twist, such as key lime- avocado. Interested patrons wrote their bids in silent auction style, and after the meal finished, continued bidding until each pie was sold.
“More than 20 pies were made from the best bakers in the community,” Welch said. “It was such a success, they would like to have it again.”
For a first-time event, it was an unprecedented success.
“We raised $800 to purchase new kitchen supplies – pots and pans,” she said.
The event began winding down shortly after the auction, and senior patrons were treated to special gift bags, provided by the Newkirk High School FFA chapter.
“We would like to wish the senior citizens and community members of Newkirk a very Merry Christmas,” FFA Advisor Bailey Reinart said. “We are really happy to be able to put together some Christmas goodies for the seniors.”
It was estimated that more than 70 people were present, from the Center’s regular patrons to young children spending time with their grandparents. Everyone who was present were happy to be a part of the event.
“It was very fun, with all the people, enjoying people’s company, seeing everyone’s faces,” Pam Peters said. “It was very nice for the FFA to donate their time and efforts in giving the Senior Center a goodie bag.”
Although Peters left before the pie auction finished, she did receive a pie she bid on, she said.
Scott Dutton was happy simply being part of the activities.
“Everybody had a good time. It was an incredible meal because everybody brought something,” he said. “The pie auction was very fun. They gave everyone a chance to outbid each other. I appreciate everyone that had anything to put into it.”
No matter what, Welch and the Senior Center are satisfied with how it went, and are simply happy be able to hold the potluck.
“With the year we’ve had, it was just fun to be together. It warms my heart to see the seniors happy, and laughing with their friends,” Welch said. “That’s what the building is for.”