By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — December 16 was a blustery day in Newkirk, a taste of the upcoming winter season only a few days away. Senior Center patrons filed into the center, looking for a warm respite from the cold temperatures outside. Holiday music waved across the room, and in the back corner, a fireplace was lit, bringing warmth to those who participate. It was not a real fireplace, though, one displayed on a television, but the image brought warmth nonetheless, as the Senior Center brought Christmas to Newkirk, especially to those who may not have family to see this holiday season.
Early in the event, patrons are mingling with one another prior to the annual potluck, which includes a variety of food, from ham to side salads, vegetables, rolls and an endless variety of desserts.
Serena Welch is the Center director, and was across the room, meeting with patrons during the event. As director she maintains the community events at the center, including potlucks.
“I think it was great,” she said of the event. “We played games, and there was a lot of fun with the seniors.”
That fun started even before the Christmas celebration began. Weeks in advance, the Newkirk FFA Chapter began collecting items that could fill gift bags that would benefit the lives of the seniors at the Center.
Baily Reinart is the FFA advisor and has been coordinating the gift bags for the patrons at the Center. Items donated to the gift bags included crackers, oatmeal and popcorn, among other things. They have been doing it for about five years, she said.
“Everything was donated by students and their parents,” she said. “We like to do it as a community service project and give back to the senior citizens and the community.”
The gift bags were filled with gifts, and for the students, it was a true contest, as the students who participated received a party for the most items received based on the class.
“We made it a contest to see who could bring the most items,” she said, adding that the juniors and seniors won the contest.
The Senior Center was also gifted by a donation from Ali Carpenter’s class for the food bank at the Center.
“She is a wonderful lady at such a very young age to give to the community,” Welch said “We need leaders teaching these children to be leaders of tomorrow.”
It wasn’t about the FFA however, as the seniors were the ones at the center of attention to celebrate the Newkirk community.
Patrons soon started lining up at the buffet to load their plates with delicious treats for the dinner, from the ham to sides and desserts. Their fellowship with one another only heightened the meal.
“It was the food, and visiting with everyone, that made it special,” said Carol Purdy, who is a regular face at the Senior Center, any time of the year.
She wasn’t’ the only one who appreciated the meal. Younger patrons also enjoyed the day, including Scott Kempinich, who serves as Newkirk Public School’s superintendent.
“I enjoyed getting the chance to fellowship with the seniors in our community,” he said. “It’s been an honor to be able to break bread with so many community leaders within Newkirk.”
Patrons would go back for seconds, maybe thirds, as they wound down into the afternoon, but not before a new solo cup game took place, with each participant taking home a gift, whether a gift card, lottery scratch off, candy, and the rare gift bag, donated by Crystal Hurt, human resources director of Newkirk Family Health Clinic.
“It was so much fun, and we had so many laughs,” Welch said, including the participants’ reactions to the game. “They got to choose a solo cup, everybody got something, and it made for a great Christmas day.”
As the day waned into the afternoon the seniors slowly made their way outside the door, but not without many thoughts felt learned in a single day.
Welch will forever be thankful to Reinart for her students.
“She is a wonderful teacher, and she’s wonderful to her students,” Welch said. “To see these kids being taught to give to the community is more important than anything.”
Overall, it was a great day to bring the community out of the house, to bring the town’s seniors out for lunch, or breakfast, to celebrate that which makes Newkirk special.
“This is to get people out and among other people this time of year, especially those who have lost loved ones, and miss them this time of year,” Purdy said.