By Darlene L. Williams, Contributing Writer

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.— As the world faces an unprecedented pandemic, along with grim news trending on every media platform; getting into the holiday spirit, these days, may seem unattainable to many or maybe even a thing of the past.

Bakersfield Senior Center (BSC) 530 4th Street held its 4th Annual Thanksgiving “Subaru, Share the Love Event”, Wednesday, November 25th from 11am-1pm. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event was drive-thru only.

Subaru, “Share the Love Event 2020”, volunteers: Erick (Sales Manager), Valentine (Delivery Specialist), and Trenton (Sales Consultant) teamed up with Mrs. Lilli Parker, Executive Director of Bakersfield Senior Center (BSC) to pass out tote bags stuffed with smoked turkeys and “all the trimmings” to seniors throughout the Bakersfield community.

“Tote bags from our sponsor, Subaru, have been arriving since Monday”, Parker said, smiling and placing her hand over her heart, as a sign of awe and heart-felt gratitude.

With 14 million COVID cases in the U.S., 300 thousand deaths and rising, heightened racial tensions ,and government conspiracy theories, to name a few, food insecurity is yet another woe for many Americans.

According to a CNN report, some “50 million American households are projected to be food insure by the end of the year—meaning, a lack of consistent access to healthy food.”

BSC has continued to provide meals to its members Monday –Friday (drive-thru only). And with the annual Subaru Thanksgiving food give-away, BSC seniors are receiving help that is much needed during these difficult times.

“Subaru does many different things throughout the community”, said Trenton (Subaru sales consultant). “Last year Subaru donated 50 million dollars to various non-profit organizations and we donated blankets last week to the Kern County Mission and the Bakersfield Homeless Shelter,” he said.

As cars lined up in the parking lot of the center and proceeded to the designated stops, Parker being the first stop, greeted each occupant by name and gave “contactless love” through her never –ending smile, jovial conversation, fist-bumps, and contagious laugh.

“Subaru does more than sell cars,” Erick, Subaru Sales Manager, said. “We invest in our community.”

In addition to receiving a tote bag filled with canned goods, ice cream and more, BSC members also picked up their regularly prepared daily lunch meal from the BSC volunteer cooks.

Rose Burris, a volunteer at BSC for about 2 months, stated “It feels good to volunteer in the community.”

“Sometimes the seniors don’t have anyone to talk too, so we call them for wellness checks, we check if they have needs or have questions, and we advise them of any available programs through Aging and Adults”, Burris said.

Parker praised Meals on Wheels America for their continued support to the center and its seniors.

“We’re able to still provide lunches for the seniors because of Meals on Wheels America. They have found funding for us (BSC)”, Parker said. “I’ve gotten $41,000 to help with our food program and because of that money, we continue to provide lunches for our seniors” she said.

As a member of Meals on Wheels America, Bakersfield Senior Center, Inc. receives a share of the donation from Subaru vehicles sold at participating Subaru Retailers.

Fighting through tears and broken speech, Mrs. Parker shared her greatest fears and concerns for the seniors she loves. Food insecurity among the senior population is a major concern for Parker.

“What we do here is more than just providing a meal”, Parker said. “I don’t know if you heard two of the congregants share the news about two church members recently passing?”

“We just buried a member last Friday with COVID, a veteran,” she said. “My goodness, when you have these types of situations, it pulls on your heartstrings; these people become your family.”

“My two sisters passed in February, twenty-one (21) days apart,” Parker said, as she wiped away tears. “The oldest of the two—died alone—that’s heartbreaking.” “Your mind can’t even conceive that, it really can’t; it’s devastating.”

“The same thing has happened with some of our seniors,” said Parker. “So what we do here is more than just providing a meal”. “If we can connect with people who are isolated and bring more love to them in this adverse time in our nation; we become the socialization that they need, it’s vital, people are really scared”, she said.

As the last turkey was distributed, and the last lunch meal served, and as the last car exited the parking lot, Mrs. Parker told the Subaru team,” Thank you, Subaru. You guys came through! You just don’t know how my heart is feeling.”

I think they knew. They had the same look on their faces as Mrs. Parker.

Disclaimer: Subaru will donate $250 for every new Subaru vehicle sold or leased from November 19, 2020 to January 4, 2021, to four national charities designated by the purchaser or lessee. Pre-approved Hometown Charities may be selected for donation depending on retailer participation. For every new Subaru vehicle sold or leased during the campaign period, participation retailers will donate a minimum of $50 in total to their registered Hometown Charities. Purchasers /lessees must make their charity designations by January 15, 2021. The four national charities will receive a guaranteed minimum donation of $250,000 each. See your local Subaru retailer for details or visit Subaru.com/share. All donations made by Subaru of America Inc.