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Giving Thanks at Jefferson Station

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Public Information Manager

Spending the holidays with loved ones, enjoying wonderful meals is something many of us take for granted. SEPTA, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) and Reading Terminal Market made sure that 300 older Philadelphians -- many of whom would be alone on Thanksgiving -- had a holiday celebration with friends, food and festivities at Jefferson Station on November 23. This was the third time SEPTA hosted the dinner at the station and the 15th year PCA had invited guests from senior centers across the city to a holiday feast donated by many Reading Terminal Market vendors and arranged by Marion "Tootsie Iovine" D'Ambrosio, one of the Reading Terminal merchants.

While many of those in attendance had participated in the celebration in previous years, there were many new guests at the party. Loretta Watkins from East Mount Airy had heard so much about the event that she made a big sacrifice to attend. "I gave up watching my Eagles to be here," she joked. Ms. Watkins was not disappointed. "I've met so many nice people. Everyone is so hospitable," she said as she sang and danced in her seat to the Motown classics that filled the station.

Reggie Hudgens from West Philadelphia was also attending the dinner for the first time. "This is a good way to honor seniors, by providing a nutritious meal and brotherly love," he said. A jazz musician, Mr. Hudgens was also looking forward to dancing and spreading cheer to others.

Helping to spread that holiday cheer were many SEPTA employees, including General Manager Joe Casey (who called on his college waiter experience to serve the seniors), Chief Financial Officer Rich Burnfield and Assistant General Managers Susan Van Buren and Bob Lund. "This is not only a great event for the guests, but for our employees, too," said Casey. "The goodwill and camaraderie felt here today is what the holiday season should be about. We're happy not only to have opened our station for the dinner, but also to have brought many of the seniors here today on our trains, trolleys and CCT vehicles." Also stepping in as wait staff were PCA Senior Vice President Holly Lange, Reading Terminal Market GM Paul Steinke and local Girl Scouts.

"This is our way to say 'thank you' to you for years of patronage of Reading Terminal," said Steinke. "All of you will gain five pounds from this meal and will have to go to the senior centers tomorrow to exercise," added Lange.

After the last door prize was won and the last slice of pie served, the seniors headed back home on their "SEPTA chariots" with bellies and hearts full of delicious food and love, and legs a little tired from all the dancing. No matter where they were headed, all had the same message -- they can't wait to see each other at dinner next year.

SEPTA volunteers helped 300 local seniors celebrate the holiday at the pre-Thanksgiving feast at Jefferson Station.

SEPTA GM Joe Casey used his waiter skills to serve guests at the dinner.

Friends Reggie Hudgens (left) and Matthew Hopkins enjoyed the food, fellowship and fun at PCA's Thanksgiving.

SEPTA CFO Rich Burnfield assisted with serving duties.

(From left): Pat Masse, Loretta Watkins and Linda Smallwood became fast friends while waiting for dinner.