Smiles, fun abound at COEA luncheon

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor

The smiles and hugs were contagious at the Rotary Club of East Ascension's annual Thanksgiving luncheon for COEA.

The fun-filled event took place Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Gonzales.

Donna Whittington, President-Elect of the Rotary Club, estimated there were about 150 people at the event which served a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings to members of Community Opportunities – The ARC of East Ascension. The ARC is an organization serving individuals with developmental disabilities.

"It's just fun to see the excitement on everyone's faces, knowing we are making a difference," she said. "Some may or may not get a Thanksgiving dinner other than the one they get here."

She said LeBlanc's Food Stores provided and cooked the Thanksgiving dinners, which were served by members of the Rotary Club of East Ascension and its Interact Club. Interact is Rotary International's service club for young people ages 12 to 18.

Rotary member Sherrie Despino, Ascension Chamber of Commerce president / CEO, enjoyed watching everyone on the dance floor moving to DeeJay Tim Waguespack's best playlist. She said she's never missed this event.

"I've been coming since its inception," she said. "It's so rewarding. It warms your heart and makes you count your blessings. I love everything about it, especially seeing how much they enjoy it and have fun. It's something I never miss."

Anita Cann, a Rotary member who also serves on the Board of Directors for COEA, said this event got its start five years ago.

"We started doing this when I was President of our Rotary," she said. "We saw a need. Many clients at The ARC of East Ascension were only getting a Thanksgiving dinner if their caregivers brought them to their house for the holiday. Some of them weren't getting a Thanksgiving dinner at all. So the people of Rotary graciously started this Thanksgiving dinner. It's always a memorable gathering and fun way to enjoy the holiday."

Ordinarily this group of Rotarians, business and community leaders throughout Ascension Parish, get together each Tuesday morning for breakfast at the Piccadilly on North Airline Highway in Gonzales. However, living their motto: "Service Above Self," the group donned aprons and served the fun-loving group from COEA.

To the delight of the crowd, a few Rotarians, like their President Michael Buturla got out on the dance floor with the guests. He said this was his fifth year to participate in the luncheon.

"It's a real good chance to give back and watch the individuals with COEA have a good time," he said. "It's fun to see the joy on their faces. Of all of the events that we do, this has to be the most enjoyable one because it's so appreciated. Everyone is so happy, even those working it. It makes you realize that we have so much to be thankful for."