Community celebrates Thanksgiving

For Vivian Kehl, 100, and her daughter Cricket Medeiros, 70, dinner at the Petaluma Senior Center caf?is a weekly occurrence. But on Tuesday, the pair was treated to a special Thanksgiving feast served by off-duty firefighters and community volunteers, complete with an impromptu serenade by Petaluma Fire Battalion Chief Phil Sutsos.

"Oh brother," giggled Medeiros as Sustos' booming song echoed throughout the cozy dining hall. She rolled her eyes jokingly, then genuinely complimented his singing and went back to chatting with her mother and Josephine Gram, a 99-year-old fellow Petaluma High School graduate who has been friends with Kehl since they were young girls.

The three women enjoyed their meal and the company of many other seniors at Petaluma People Services Center's annual Thanksgiving luncheon, which PPSC has been hosting for the past 20 years. Elece Hempel, executive director of PPSC, said that she loves this event because it is a way for the community to give back to its seniors.

"This day lets us recognize members of our community who have been here through it all," she said cheerfully. "It's really a special day when everyone puts down their typical responsibilities to help someone else."

Sutsos, who had the honor of carving the turkey in addition to performing his mini-operetta, said that the firefighters and their families have been volunteering at the event for six years.

"Spending time with the people in our community who hold our history is extremely valuable and fun," said Sutsos, whose wife and daughters also helped to serve the meal. "That's why we do it, for these important members in our community."

Sutsos and his family were joined by fellow Petaluma Battalion Chief Jeff Schach and his family, firefighters Kevin Larson and Duncan Smith, members of the Petaluma Chapter of Realtors, and regular volunteers from PPSC. Along with live music preformed by Craig Cherrstrom — a Meals on Wheels volunteer — the food and lively conversation kept the atmosphere in the small dining hall friendly and cozy.

Tracy Gentry, kitchen manager of PPSC's Meals on Wheels program that serves seniors in Petaluma and the Senior Caf?at the center, said that the free Thanksgiving luncheon is made possible through revenue generated at the Senior Center as well as donations and grants received through PPSC.

She added that without the help of the community, events like the Thanksgiving luncheon wouldn't happen.

"We have a great amount of community support and for that, we're very thankful," she said as she busily darted off to continue cooking.

(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at janelle.wetzstein@arguscourier.com)

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