“More room, more love” — that’s how the Santa Clarita Valley’s Bella Vida senior center celebrated its first Thanksgiving Day Thursday morning, since moving from its previous location on Market Street in Newhall.
“Celebrating at this location, it just lets us share more love — more room, more love,” said Flo Lawrence, vice president of Castaic Lions Club, which helped organize the event along with the William S. Hart Union High School District and the SCV Committee on Aging, which runs the center.
Every year, the organizations team up with the senior center to dish out a gourmet Thanksgiving feast for local seniors to break bread together with the community, and Bella Vida’s new and large banquet hall offered the perfect place to do so.
“I was used to the other place, but this here is lovely. It’s bigger and better, and we’ll create more memories here,” said attendee Dona Muzzo, while waiting for her meal.
Volunteers, consisting of students and teachers, church members and Scouts, scrambled across the hall accommodating attendees with menus, drinks and Thanksgiving food.
An estimated 350 meals, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and apple pie, were prepared and served Thursday, as well as an additional 350 for guests to take home. But it didn’t end there. An extra 300 plates were also made for delivery, for a total of nearly 1,000 meals, according to Lawrence.
But it wasn’t all about the food. Muzzo said one of the most special parts of the annual event is getting to know the students.
“One year, there was this boy who came up to us and asked us if we needed anything, and a few years later, we saw him volunteering again and he was this young man,” she said. “It’s great to see them grow.”
About 150 Hart District students volunteered Thursday, including from Saugus High. Among them were Saugus cheerleaders Mikayla Pinantanida and Faith Emard.
“It’s nice to see the community stand with us as we stand with them today,” said Emard, referring to the deadly school shooting at Saugus High on Nov. 14. “It’s nice to have that family kind of feel. I’d rather be with people than without.”
It was a day of giving from all ends, where other high school students supported seniors and their Saugus High peers, as well as attendees showing appreciation to volunteers, said Bill Bolde, former Saugus High principal.
“This is really important,” he said. “We’re not only serving seniors but we’re also giving the school-age kids a chance to learn more about what this country was built on.”