Las Vegas Sun

December 5, 2019

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Plucky seniors give thanks for a festive feast, courtesy of North Las Vegas cops

Senior Thanksgiving 2

Wade Vandervort

Officer Eric Leavitt dances with Joann Woods during a North Las Vegas Police community engagement event at Rose Garden Senior Apartments, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. Officers served an early Thanksgiving feast to local seniors.

Police Serve Seniors Thanksgiving Meal

Joann Woods dances during a North Las Vegas Police community engagement event at Rose Garden Senior Apartments, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. As part of the event, officers served an early Thanksgiving feast to local seniors. Launch slideshow »

Joann Woods’ philosophy was proudly publicized on the colorful shirt she wore to an early Thanksgiving Day feast: “Blessed.”

After the traditional meal at the North Las Vegas retirement complex on Wednesday, Woods surveyed the cozy dining room as music began to play. Seated, the 55-year-old clapped and sang along to the soul music.

But when a funky feature by “The Gap Band” came on, she arose to let out big moves and laughs, all while shaking her hips. At one point, she shimmied with a uniformed cop. The small room erupted.

Woods is fortunate, she said, pointing at the shirt, after a meal and a few dances at the North Las Vegas retirement community. “I’ve always been like this. My soul is happy. I like to see people laugh.”

This was the 14th annual event in which North Las Vegas Police serve an early holiday feast to residents of the Rose Garden Senior Center, a low-income apartment complex at 1731 Yale Street.

The dining area — decorated in fall oranges and browns — began to fill by late morning. Most aging residents were able to walk in themselves, although a couple required a walker. After a brief presentation and a prayer, cops began taking their drink orders.

Even Police Chief Pamela Ojeda moonlit as a server, drumming on the clothed table, “ladies,” she said with a wide smile, asking what they were drinking.

“For police to be a part of this,” said resident Marie Wilson, 65, a recent transplant from Chicago. “I love it.”

Wilson has taken a role on the center's welcoming committee, which helps plan monthly activities such as the feast.

“We are happy here," Wilson said. “I just found out I was a senior citizen yesterday,” she joked.

Although Frances Reza, 69, will be spending Thanksgiving Day with family, she found the event to be pleasant. When asked what she was grateful for this year, she simply responded, “I’m happy to be alive.”

Hailing from Monroe, Louisiana, Gloria Johnson, 64, has been in the valley most of her life. She said she moved here to get well, and she found a fruitful life before retiring as a housekeeper from an old Las Vegas resort. Most of her family doesn’t live here, but on Wednesday she said her resident friends — many of them in attendance — were like her loved ones. “I love this,” she said. “It’s off the hook.”

Woods, whose family lives in Southern California, said the event was her Thanksgiving Day celebration — as it would be for other residents — if it weren't for North Las Vegas Police. “It’s awesome they came here.”

Jonetta Franklin, 64, who is also from Chicago, said she would spend Thanksgiving Day with her daughter and grandchildren but that it was wonderful to be around her fellow residents for a “lovely, lovely dinner.”

She said she was grateful for everything in her life before setting aside her walking cane to join Franklin for a dance as the room erupted once more.