New Paltz area senior citizens celebrate a Thanksgiving meal with elementary school students (with photo gallery)

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Photos by Sharyn Flanagan


The New Paltz Central School District held its 22nd annual Thanksgiving holiday meal for seniors on Wednesday, November 18. All senior citizens of the district were invited, with the option of having the meal at either Lenape or Duzine Elementary School. The event, sponsored by the New Paltz United Teachers, was held at both locations simultaneously.

The holiday tradition involves students serving a festive meal to their elders. The menu included salad and rolls followed by plates of roast turkey, stuffing, broccoli and holiday pies. Local resident Fred Fischer, who attended the luncheon at Lenape Elementary School along with friends Ursula Feeney and Greg and Anjana Williams, said he’s attended the luncheons in past years and always found them to be very enjoyable. “And the kids do a great job,” he added.

The students not only provide the set-up, creating artistic placemats and table decorations for the meal, they entertain the seniors while they’re dining. At Lenape Elementary School, the students sang several songs in chorus and smaller groups played in several ensembles of stringed and brass instruments. Fifth-grader Sage Rochetti performed a solo minuet on piano.


The students worked in teams of two carrying out large rectangular trays of food to the seniors. One student efficiently balanced their cargo while the other served the plates of food off the tray to the diners. Fallon Geisler, Hayden King and Willow Sio-Cody, all fifth graders, were just a few of the students that worked together very well to serve the seniors in a timely fashion, delivering the meals with grace and composure.

New Paltz-Gardiner Senior Citizens Club coordinator Phyllis Maier of Gardiner was there to dine with members of the club she has been a member of for the past three years or so. The group meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at the VFW Hall in New Paltz at 1:30 p.m.

Maier is the trip coordinator for the group that plans four day trips a year for seniors along with an annual dinner dance and regular luncheons. They usually have guest speakers at their meetings, she said, ranging from local authors doing a presentation or live musical entertainment to guest speakers offering a range of information relevant to senior citizens. Getting together on a regular basis is “just a time to socialize and get together with friends and do something interesting,” she said.


Local senior citizen club and luncheons

The New Paltz-Gardiner Senior Citizens Club has been in existence for 40 years or so, Maier said, with some of their members having been active for 25 and 30 years now. The annual membership dues are nominal, in the $20 range, with participants paying for their own meals if they go to a restaurant or show or their expenses on a day trip. The towns of New Paltz and Gardiner both contribute some funding to the group to pay for its expenses.

Kathy Puglisi is the senior services coordinator for the Town of New Paltz. She was director of the county Office of the Aging for eleven years prior to her current position and before that was director of a retired senior volunteer program.

All seniors in New Paltz are welcome to meet every Thursday at the Community Center for a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. provided through funding by the Office of the Aging and a state grant. A $3 donation is suggested, but not required. Regular meetings with seniors are not held, says Puglisi, but she’s available to advise on any resources seniors might need or to answer their questions about transportation, Medicare, home health care or other senior-related issues.

Periodically, they have guest speakers at the lunches, like the upcoming rescue squad from the New Paltz Fire Department that will speak on December 10, and they occasionally take trips to places like the FDR site. “People need to get out and do something, so we try to plan some activities like that. Whatever they would like,” says Puglisi.

A free holiday potluck luncheon for December 13 is in the works with live entertainment. Youth from St. Joseph’s and the PIGLETS (Participation in Government, Literature and Economics for Today’s Students) group from New Paltz High School will come to help out and serve. The town is providing some funding for the event, but people who bring in potluck dishes will get a small gift from Santa in return for their generosity.

More information about joining the New Paltz-Gardiner Senior Citizens Club is available at 255-6878. Kathy Puglisi can be reached at (845) 883-6020 after 3 p.m. or in person on Thursdays at the Community Center luncheons. An RSVP for the holiday luncheon is requested.