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A Feast at Market East

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Public Information Manager

Friends, fun and food are staples of the holiday season. And, on November 24, there was an abundance of all three at SEPTA's Market East Station when the Authority hosted the Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging's (PCA) annual Thanksgiving dinner for almost 300 older Philadelphians. "It might be cold outside, but you can't tell in here because of the warmth created by the love and fellowship," said SEPTA Chief Financial Officer Richard Burnfield, who welcomed the special guests to the "ballroom at Market East".

Invited by PCA, the diners came from across the city. Many traveled via Customized Community Transportation (CCT) arranged by the Authority. Others, as 89-year old Maybelline Ransom said, "took their SEPTA limos" to the station. For all, it was the chance to catch up with good friends while enjoying turkey dinner with all of the fixings and pie, donated by many Reading Terminal Market vendors and arranged by Marion "Tootsie Iovine" D'Ambrosio, one of the Reading Terminal merchants. For other guests, this was the only holiday celebration they will have.

"My family is out of town," said Doris Whittington, who came with friends from West Philadelphia's Older Adult Sunshine Center. "I won't have Thanksgiving with them."

PCA, a nationally recognized Area Agency on Aging, has hosted the Thanksgiving dinner since 2000. This was the second year SEPTA had hosted the holiday celebration at Market East. In addition to Burnfield, the event's wait staff included SEPTA Assistant GMs Susan Van Buren and Bob Lund; the Authority's employee ambassadors; PCA President and CEO Holly Lange; Reading Terminal Market GM Paul Steinke; members of Girl Scout Troops 944, 9488 and 9183; and the Boy Scouts' Cradle of Liberty Council.

"We are so glad to be able to host the dinner," said Van Buren. "We will make this a permanent event at Market East," added Burnfield.

Not only did the guests of honor leave with full bellies and door prizes courtesy of 80 Reading Terminal merchants, many went home in high style. Anna Marino, owner of Freckled Sage Oil Cloth Products at Reading Terminal, her daughter Sage, a sophomore at Lower Merion High School and her schoolmates Shane Weiser and Nick Deluca, had more than 130 vintage coats and sports jackets to give guests in need of warm coats. "No one will go home cold," said Marino.

The seniors also had the opportunity to talk football with former Philadelphia Eagle Hollis Thomas, who visited each table, giving guests autographed photos and posing for pictures. "It's nice seeing people out having a good time. Just because you get a little older doesn't mean you can't have fun," said Thomas.

Almost 300 seniors from across Philadelphia enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner at Market East Station.

SEPTA CFO Richard Burnfield was on hand to serve the traditional holiday meal to the guests.

Assistant General Manager of Engineering, Maintenance and Construction Bob Lund offered hot coffee- a welcome sight on the bitter cold day.

Assistant General Manager of Human Resources Susan Van Buren helps guest Maybelline Ransom with the coat she received, courtesy of Reading Terminal merchant Anna Marino.

Former Philadelphia Eagle Hollis Thomas was a hit with dinner attendees.