More than 400 seniors dodged the snowy conditions and feasted on holiday treats as the Sparks Sertoma Club hosted its annual dinner, which became a major team effort as local school students and dozens of volunteers flooded the kitchen and dining room areas of the Washoe County Senior Center on Ninth Street.
Sertoma member Sparks Justice of the Peace Susan Deriso said the annual event was made possible by the volunteer efforts and countless donations from Sparks-area businesses like Walmart, Target and Bourbon Square and Rail City casinos.
“We couldn’t do it without their help,” Deriso said of students from McQueen and Excel Christian high schools. “We do not have the man power, and they are so giving. Every single year when this comes around they say ‘we want to come back next year.’ They absolutely love it.
“And those seniors connect with these young people and it is magical. There are some special moments and it is so amazing to see these seniors and young folks together. The holidays and the spirit of what it is only adds to everything.”
Sparks Sertoma primarily focuses its community service efforts in Sparks, but Deriso said this time of year calls for regional service. The success of the dinner has grown each year and Deriso said it has become a tradition for many seniors.
“We have been doing this for so long because it means so much to these seniors,” Deriso said. “They look forward to it every year and they get dressed up for it. In the last few years we have even seen more homeless people coming in the door because they know we have plenty of food and we don’t turn anyone away.”
Deriso said having the help from the senior center allowed the club to cook and serve food Saturday, but much of the cooking took place in the homes of club members. Deriso cooked multiple turkeys at her home and many other members cooked and cut meat prior to the dinner.
Deriso cited the “infusion of young people” to the event as another key component to keeping the tradition alive for senior citizens in the area.
“I think community service is sort of falling by the wayside in many ways,” Deriso said. “It is great to see these young students not only come out to help us but do community service throughout the city. It has been required by more and more high schools in the area, and I think that having them come see what we do as a club and how many different ways there are of helping others is huge for the future of our community.
“Seeing these kids come in here and actually enjoy helping out senior citizens is something that you have to see to understand the power behind it. It’s bigger than just helping out others, it makes an impression on them that lasts a lifetime. With more people out there thinking of ways to help our community things can only get better.”