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Storms Break for Healdsburg Seniors

262 seniors enjoy 29th Annual "Senior Appreciation Dinner" Sunday.

Like Moses parting the Red Sea, the Healdsburg nature gods took a time out from rain, wind and flooding Sunday to offer clear skies and smooth sailing for the 29th Annual "Senior Appreciation Dinner" at Villa Chanticleer.

"I'm so happy about the weather," said Lea Black, Healdsburg Senior Center coordinator and co-organizer, with Sonja Drown of of Sunday's event.

"I was doing my 'requests' overnight," Black said. "It looks like the higher-ups listened."

A total of 212 seniors at the Villa and 50 more who were delivered meals at home enjoyed a free holiday dinner of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, candied yams, green beans, cranberry relish, wine, cake and coffee. Numbers are up this year for both dinner attendees and at-home deliveries, Black said.

"This is a great event -- you can't beat it," said Len Hammond, who attended with wife Peggy Daniel.  "I don't think there's any other community that does this."

Hammond and Daniel, both 68, said they were attending the event for the first time on suggestions from their neighbors in the River's View adult community in Healdsburg.

"The whole idea of doing something for seniors is so unique," Hammond added. "And the 'cost' is right."

About 90 community volunteers of all ages did the cooking, serving, wine pouring and cleaning up.

Among those was Healdsburg City Manager Marjie Pettus, who volunteered early Sunday with the food preparation crew and then later on joined the server line.

"I get a kick out of seeing the enjoyment on their faces," Pettus said of the seniors as they receive their meals from the servers. 

"I also like that when you look at the server line and you see young people standing there," Pettus added. "It's nice to have an event that draws in all different parts of the community."

Other volunteers included a crew of chefs led by with the help of Realtor Bob Santucci, Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian, civic volunteer and columnist Ray Holley, former Mayor Jason Liles and Healdsburg Planning Commissioner Mark Zimmerman. Zimmerman's two sons also helped dish out food to the servers.

Healdsburg City Clerk Maria Curiel was chief kitchen manager -- as she has been for many years.

And other City Council members helped with wine pouring duties, including Jim Wood, Tom Chambers, Vice Mayor Susan Jones and newly elected City Councilman Shaun McCaffery. 

North Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire, a former Healdsburg Mayor, took over emcee duties while his wife Erika, a Healdsburg High School social studies and history teacher, worked the server line.

"I guess I could be sitting out there," said Earl Koch, 68, who was volunteering in the server line, as he has for the last five years. "I just never admitted that I'm a senior."

Beulah McCaffrey, 91, a Tayman Park golf legend and former Healdsburg Parks and Recreation Commissioner, said she volunteered at the dinner as a server for 10 years while she was on the commission.

"Then I started serving people that were younger than me," she said.

After that, McCaffrey decided it was time for her to be served by others, she said.

"I used to know everyone in town, but now, I look around (at the dinner) and I don't know a lot of people," she said.

McCaffrey, wife of the late whose name graces the field at Recreation Park, and mother of longtime Healdsburg Animal Shelter board member Kathleen McCaffrey, said she was "close friends" with Sister Finton, the nun who started the "Senior Appreciation Dinner" 29 years ago.

"She wanted to do something for seniors," McCaffrey said."She got this thing started."

Decorations literally shined for this year's event. Everything from lighted table creations to carved wooden reindeers were on display.

"I was inspired," Black said of this year's decor.

"Last January, I went to all the half-off holiday sales and picked up a lot of items," she said. "They all worked together."

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