Bakersfield Senior Center (BSC) 5th Annual Christmas Gala

 Tee Daniels (Center Left) and the board presenting Lilli J. Parker (Center Right) with flowers and a gift. (Carrington Prichett photo credit)
Tee Daniels (Center Left) and the board presenting Lilli J. Parker (Center Right) with flowers and a gift. (Carrington Prichett photo credit)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – The Bakersfield Senior Center (BSC) hosted its 5th Annual Christmas Gala,” An Evening of Jazz, Gospel, and More,” at Bakersfield Marriott and Convention Center. The festive event was held Sunday, December 8, 2019.

Boisterous thunder, gusty winds and rain showers didn’t appear to dampen the holiday enthusiasm of the crowd of about 180 seniors, family, and other supporters who enjoyed an evening of dining, a raffle give-away, dancing, and award presentations.

“22 years ago, my wife Teresa and I moved away from Bakersfield, Tony Ramirez said. We were invited by Chris Gutierrez, who works at BSC; we drove from Santa Ana to support this event. I’m very blessed to be here and I’m impressed by what the BSC is doing in the community for veterans, seniors, and the low-income,” he said.

The annual gala gives BSC an opportunity to campaign and benefit from the “SUBARU Share the Love Event,” a year-end sales event, which is held yearly from November to January.

When a Subaru is purchased, leased, or test-driven, Subaru will donate $250 to the customer’s charity of choice.

When Meals on Wheels is selected as the charity of choice, it benefits the Bakersfield Senior who partners with Meals on Wheels and rely on the program to deliver meals to seniors throughout various areas of Bakersfield. According to www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/sharethelove, “Over the past ten years, Subaru and its retailers have helped the Meals on Wheels network deliver more than 2.2 MILLION MEALS to seniors in need across the country.”

Past directors of the Bakersfield Senior Center were awarded plaques and certificates for their support to the center. Honorees were: Mr. John W. Robinson (award accepted by son, John Robinson), Mr. Lynn Edwards (award accepted by son, ), Mr. Vernell Jackson, Mrs. Polly Warren, Mrs. Bernita Jenkins, and Mr. James Tyson.

Mistress of Ceremony, NaTesha Johnson (Upside Productions) kept the crowd energized and jovial while Mr. Don Factory(keyboard) and Mr. Darren Gholston (Saxophone) kept them swaying and toe-tapping to the melodious sounds of smooth jazz.

“I love the set up, it was getting too big. Sal Gutierrez said.

“Last year the gala was held at the center (BSC), but it was too crowded. With Lilli Parker’s help, I think she said, ‘Let’s go big,” this place accommodates everyone,” Gutierrez said.

“I envision a new senior center, not a renovated one and so do my seniors,” said Lili Parker, Director of BSC. My seniors want a new center, but they can’t do it by themselves.”

“Even if you don’t see my vision, she said just support us,” Parker said.

Parker, whose heart seems to be as large as her smile could be seen throughout the evening interacting with and hugging the seniors she loves.

In a one-on-one interview with the Bakersfield News Observer, Mrs. Parker spoke candidly about the BSC and Christmas Gala.

“Proceeds from tonight’s event will be split three ways: Meals on Wheels, D.E.E.P (Diabetes Empowerment Education Program) and Operations,” she said.

“D.E.E.P is a 6-week course offered at the center,” Parker said. “Statistics show that African Americans, Latinos and Asian populations A1-C is registering at 7 and above; it’s escalated and gone over the top Parker said. The program at the center is a wonderful place to come and be educated about diabetes.” 

As the 4-hour event neared closing, Parker, thanked everyone for supporting and the honorees for leaving her with “documents, guidelines, and directions” to follow.

Then the music got louder and the ballroom dance floor quickly filled up with agile seniors who seemed to effortlessly move their hips and clap their hands to the beat. And those who couldn’t, or just didn’t get out on the dance floor; instead danced at their table never missing a beat.

“This is what they do at the center, Parker said. This is cardio exercise.”

 Lilli J. Parker, Executive Director of the Bakersfield Senior Center. (Carrington Prichett photo credit)
Lilli J. Parker, Executive Director of the Bakersfield Senior Center. (Carrington Prichett photo credit)