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Giving Thanks at Jefferson Station

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Public Information Manager

What does it take feed almost 400 invited Thanksgiving guests? Approximately 120 pounds of sweet potatoes; 50 pounds of bread; 25 turkeys;cases of zucchini, onions and squash; and dozens of pies. And where do you hold such a feast? How about a Center City train station?

On Sunday, November 20, SEPTA, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) and Reading Terminal Market hosted older adults from across Philadelphia for an early holiday celebration at Jefferson Station. This was the fifth time SEPTA held the dinner at the station and the 17th 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.

"We are thankful we are able to get together for another year," said Reading Terminal Market General Manager Anju Gupta. "I can't thank the Reading Terminal merchants enough for making this happen, especially Tootsie, who is the heart and soul of the Terminal. She treats everyone like family."

Many of the dinner guests are SEPTA customers and used the system or CCT as their rides to party. "You are very important to us," said GM Jeff Knueppel, who brought his wife and son to help wait tables. "We are happy that you are here in our house." Among those joining the Knueppels to serve platters piled high with turkey and the trimmings were SEPTA Assistant General Managers Susan Van Buren and Bob Lund; SEPTA Chief Railroad Officer Mike Dobson; PCA Senior Vice President Holly Lange and Vice President of Operations Louis Colbert; Gupta and his daughter; local Girl Scouts; seventh grade students from Our Mother of Consolation School; and members of the Penn Jersey Roller Hockey League. In addition to food, dancing and prizes, SEPTA representatives were on hand to take guests' photos for SEPTA's new Senior ID cards.

The PCA Thanksgiving dinner is a much-anticipated even for many of the guests, something they look forward to attending every year. "Everything is organized and the food and entertainment is good," said Maxine Votee, who attends the Northeast Older Adult Center. Elmer Long was looking forward to being "with the crowd". Loretta Gaither was the first guest on the Jefferson dance floor, moving to music provided by SEPTA employee and DJ Ervin Terrell. "I'll be 74 next month. I've had a knee replacement and a hip replacement, but I'm here for fun," Gaither said, taking only a brief break between songs to chat with guests.

From left, Lena Acosta, Clarice Chambers (a former SEPTA railroad employee) and Diane Warren were excited to attend their first PCA Thanksgiving dinner at Jefferson Station.

SEPTA AGM Susan Van Buren (fourth from left) and GM Jeff Knueppel were on hand to serve dinner to the invited guests.

SEPTA AGM Bob Lund served coffee to guests waiting for the party to start.

Teams from Reading Terminal, PCA and SEPTA helped make the 2016 PCA Thanksgiving dinner memorable for hundreds of older adults.