Happy Time Seniors pull heartstrings with holiday spirit

Ann Cousineau

Happy Time Seniors pull heartstrings with holiday spiritKeeping up with Ridgecrest seniors who are helping each other this holiday season is not easy. Countless heartfelt cookie delivery visits were made to happily surprised men and women who were unable to visit the Senior Center for Christmas dinner last week.

The Christmas cookie project was started in 2007 by Happy Time Seniors, a club that supports activities and other projects for the Ridgecrest Senior Center. Delivering cookies is a now firmly held tradition among seniors who were involved in distributing 135 tins of holiday cookies and 200 cards this year.

Donna Williams, Happy Times Seniors president, said she couldn’t imagine not being involved in this special mission. She had tears in her eyes as she thought about seniors who were not be able to make it to the Senior Center for Christmas dinner last Friday.

She leads the challenge each year to make sure cookies get to homebound seniors, seniors who are ill or who for other reasons are temporarily unable to visit the center. She also makes sure cookies are delivered to former familiar faces who are at assisted-living residences and skilled nursing homes.

The mission starts in early fall when Williams tends to the cookie order and manages the delivery counts. Festive greeting cards accompany the cookies, and for the second year in a row, Williams’ granddaughter, Kristen Roberts and her friend, Josh Mattina, helped prepare the holiday greeting cards — complete with handwritten messages inside each of the 200 cards.

“Kristen has been coming to the center to help since she was about five years old,” Williams added. “In the early days I had her help me with the tables, pour milk and do dishes and such. She followed her grandma all around the center.”

Williams, now 79, came to the Senior Center in 2000 with her mother as part of a 12-member group of Bunko players who decided one day to visit the center for lunch. They enjoyed their time that day and kept coming back. By 2001 Williams had become president of Happy Time Seniors, a post she still holds.

“Now I know it’s my calling,” Williams said during Christmas dinner. “Honestly though, we couldn’t do half of what we do if it were not for donations from organizations like WACOM.”

In addition to her granddaughter, Williams’ backup for Happy Time Seniors activities is Dottie Erlandson, 90-year-old vice president, who was by Williams’ side when it came to making visits to deliver cookies at the Ridgecrest skilled nursing facility.

“We would be lost with Donna,” Erlandson said. “No one really knows all that she does for us; she is so thoughtful.” As the senior who has spent the most time at the Senior Center of any of the current attendees, she knows how much Williams has done.

“Donna is my backup,” said Tracy Chrisman, Kern County site manager for the Senior Center. “When I first came here seven years ago, I wanted to bring more people in. I looked at old newspapers and saw that there had been birthday dinners, Game Day and other activities. I went to Donna for help. She did and now I couldn’t do this without her and the other Happy Time Seniors board members. They give me what I need to do dinners like this,” she said at last Friday’s Christmas dinner at the Senior Center.

The dinner was a delicious feast that included roast beef, gravy potatoes, vegetables, salad, fresh rolls and dessert. All ate on white cloth tablecloths with red silky napkins; just one example of the attention to details when it comes to helping seniors feel special this holiday season. The Happy Time Seniors club holds small fundraising efforts throughout the year to get supplies, decorations, and other support for Chrisman’s thoughtful and creative ideas to serve the seniors at the center, above and beyond the call of her job.

Chrisman is quick to point at least 20 regular volunteers serving seniors by cooking, serving, cleaning, and performing a host of chores every weekday at the center.

For more information see the Happy Time Seniors Facebook page, call the Ridgecrest Senior Center at 760-375-5438 or call Williams at 760-499-6221. The center is located at 125 S. Warner St.

Story First Published: 2013-12-25