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Healdsburg: Where Seniors Are Wined, Dined, Appreciated

For the 28th year, Healdsburg's Senior Appreciation Dinner is served Sunday to more than 200 seniors by more than 75 volunteers.

 

Healdsburg continued Sunday as the only Sonoma County town that, for the last 28 years, has put together a free holiday feast -- with all the trimmings -- for its senior population.

"It's a testimony to Healdsburg and to the way this commuity feels for one another," said Sonja Drown, recreation manager for theof the annual at "It's our way of saying 'thank you' to the seniors."

Healdsburg City Manager Marjie Pettus and many of her fellow staff members -- and most of the Healdsburg City Council -- were volunteers for the day: cooking, servings plates of food and pouring wine for seniors who wanted it.

"It's a good thing for us to support," Pettus said.

Healdsburg Vice Mayor Gary Plass was again wearing his chef's garb as head cook and kitchen manager for the day.

"The head cook used to be former police chief Lou Bertoli, the chief who hired me," said Plass, a retired Healdsburg Police sergeant. "He was the head cook, and when he died, I took it over."

Mark Zimmerman, a Healdsburg Planning Commissioner, said he was enjoying the contact with seniors as he poured them some wine.

"It's a cool thing to bring everyone out -- like a big reunion," 'Zimmerman said. "A lot of times, you don't get 'em all together unless it's a funeral."

Michael and Darlene Cave of Healdsburg -- and Darlene Cave's mother Florence Ferrell -- said they had just joined the Sunday was their first time attending the annual dinner, they said.

"I didn't realize there are so many seniors in Healdsburg," Michael Cave said, looking around the room filled with tables and diners. "We're taking over."

Lea Black, Healdsburg Senior Center Coordinator, said that 205 people were signed up for the dinner at Villa Chanticleer, while another 50 were receiving home meal deliveries.. It was .

"We have a lot of new people this year," she said. "That's really nice."

Black praised the volunteers, many of whom told her they were waiting for her call when she contacted them to ask if they would be participating this year.

"They said they already had me on their calendar," Black said. "We have such great volunteers."

Paul Smith said he and his whole family -- including wife Brenda Smith and children Natalie and Evan -- were there to volunteer.

"It's fun watching [the seniors]  smile when you put a plate of food down in front of them," Smith said.

In fact, so many Healdsburg residents enjoy volunteering at the event that this year a few were turned away.

"This is the first time I haven't volunteered (with set-up)," said Ron Stewart, who was enjoying the meal nonetheless. "Lea called me and said we had too many volunteers."

Former Healdsburg City Councilman Pete Foppiano, who served on council from 1984 through 1996, said that, except for the first dinner in 1983, he has volunteered at the event every year since then -- or for 27 years.

"We're still the only city in Sonoma County that does it," Foppiano said. "No one else does."

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