By YVETTE C. HAMMETT
For 21 years, the Riverview community has come together to host hundreds of lonely seniors who might otherwise go through the holidays with little or no festivities.
Each year, volunteers would come up with a location, theme, menu and gifts for the seniors, pulling it all together so lonely elders, many who have no family nearby, could at least have one day to make merry.
Last year, businesswoman Theresa Turner took on the task of chairing the event after Barbara Jones, founder and longtime chair, retired from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, where she served as a community service officer.
Since then, however, Turner and her husband unexpectedly adopted a baby, and her husband, who is retired military, returned to the workforce.
“I realized it is just too much and not fair to my family because of the amount of time required to chair the event,” Turner said. “I really don’t want to see it go away. What it really requires is a team of people willing to do a lot of the work up front,” she said.
Getting volunteers to come and work the day of the event is a breeze, she said, but there is much to be done weeks, even months in advance.
Committees need to be set up to gather donated gifts for the seniors, to contact local food establishments to get donations for the meals, people to gather decorations, others to get lists from local communities, the sheriff’s office and case workers on who should be invited.
The event started out all those years ago as a need-based party, but not just based on finance, Jones explained last year.
“You can be as rich as Warren Buffett and still be lonely. How depressing it is to have no one? And then there are caregivers. Oh, my gosh, just a night out for them, they are catered to and they are taken care of.”
“There were people willing to do bits and pieces of it last year, but nobody to manage it and pick up the slack,” Turner said. “It fell on me and my family to cover what we didn’t have volunteers for.”
It is like organizing a prom, she said. “It is a lot of work and I have tax season that ends Oct. 15, and I need that down time to recover,” said Turner, whose business is Tax Happens.
Turner said she did get a call from Cassie Adams with the Cypress Creek Produce Co-Op, but it will take more than one person.
“It’s a great event that brings a lot of seniors together,” Turner said. “But time is already getting short. “In the next few weeks we need to identify people in need. We need to have someone in charge to go to the community centers and home health agencies.”
Anyone interested in getting involved or in chairing the event, can contact Turner through the nonprofit at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her office at (813) 304-5569.