By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published December 21, 2006
The parish of St. Michael the Archangel hosted its seventh annual Christmas luncheon for seniors. Nearly 250 seniors, who included family members of parishioners and guests from area assisted living and nursing homes, were the honored guests. Set with china and professionally decorated, each table had a different Christmas theme. Father Larry Niese, pastor, welcomed the guests and blessed the food to begin the luncheon. The menu included ham, turkey and dressing, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, rolls, and apple and pumpkin pie.
Lew Rowell serves as master of ceremonies for the event, a position he has held all seven years. The Golden Age Fitness Line Dancers, under the direction of line dance instructor Leslie Thompson, provided the entertainment and Santa Claus also dropped by for a visit. Prizes were distributed to seniors for the following categories: the oldest person in attendance, the person with the most grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the longest married couple. At the conclusion of the luncheon each guest received a Christmas goody bag and table favor to take home.
Table sponsors for the luncheon included parishioners and area civic groups. The luncheon drew upon the help of some 100 volunteers. Christie Timme led the eight-member kitchen crew, Evelyn Castinelli and a host of other women parishioners coordinated the decorating committee, Molly Chelena headed up the serving crew, and the men of the parish served as valet parkers and escorts and they assisted with setup and cleanup.
Melissa Conti and her husband Chris are the principal coordinators for the luncheon. The idea for the luncheon came from Conti’s grandmother, Juanita Sanson, who organized a similar function at her church in Florida. Conti said she combined her grandmother’s idea and her love for seniors into the first senior Christmas luncheon in 1999. Her 81-year-old grandmother even attended the luncheon for the first time this year.
“The senior Christmas luncheon is important to our parish community,” Conti said, “as this event truly unites all of the ministries, parishioners, office staff and clergy together, and it allows us to pour all of our love into making Christmas a special time for the seniors.”