Thanks to dozens of volunteers from local Kiwanis clubs, churches and organizations, nearly 300 people with disabilities were treated to an early Thanksgiving luncheon feast Wednesday at the Carrillo Recreation Center, a tradition dating back 34 years.
“In 1978, the Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara wanted to make Thanksgiving a bit brighter for people with disabilities, especially those without families,” Kiwanis member Anita Dominocielo-Ho member. “In fact, the Kiwanis Club started WORK Inc. in 1968 to assist people with significant disabilities. Less than a decade later, the club also came up with the idea for the lunch.”
Dominocielo-Ho is no stranger to the event. Prior to volunteering for Kiwanis, she retired after 38 years with Santa Barbara’s Parks & Recreation Department, during which time she served as the event’s point person. She helped secure a location for the first event, which served 50 in a small conference room at the Carrillo Recreation Center, and communicated with more than 25 agencies and board and care homes that bring residents to the lunch.
The Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara and the Kiwanis of Santa Barbara Suburban have sponsored the food and recruited volunteers since 1978.
On Wednesday, as in years past, Easy Lift Transportation helped provide transportation for many guests.
“My husband and I always look forward to this event,” Easy Lift Development Director Melinda Johansson said. “It brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat to see the utter joy and thankfulness in the faces of those we serve. This is what Thanksgiving is all about!”
Volunteer waiters and waitresses took orders and delivered plates piled high with turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, corn, gravy and cranberry sauce. Dessert was pumpkin and pecan pie with whipped cream. Volunteers also served in the kitchen, on the buffet line and throughout the dining room. A group of teens from Goleta Presbyterian Church served as the beverage crew.
— Melinda Johansson is the development director for Easy Lift Transportation.