About 60 local senior citizens gathered on a chartered bus Thursday night to share holiday stories of nostalgia, view Christmas lights, have dinner, participate in sing-a-longs and attend parties — all put together by local organizations and residents.
“Christmas isn’t just for children. We don’t want to forget our senior citizens,” said Edna Runner, executive director Edna W. Runner Tutorial Center, where the annual holiday event started 17 years ago.
The participants were residents who attend senior citizen programs at the center on Church Road. Opened in 1985 as the West Jupiter Tutorial Center, the center underwent a $600,000 expansion in 2011 and was renamed Edna W. Runner Tutorial Center.
The first stop on the tour was a dinner donated by First United Methodist Church of Jupiter-Tequesta on Indiantown Road. Participants then boarded the bus chartered by Administrations of Jupiter Medical Center and Calvary Church.
Parties were the next stop. Local residents and organizations open up their houses annually for gifts and refreshments for the senior citizens for the holiday event.
One was at the Jupiter Light Lodge for Christmas carols.
Participants then visited the homes of Lori and John Houchins for refreshments and more holiday cheer. Santa Claus, through the efforts of north county residents Jay and Michelle Shearouse, made a visit. Another stop was made at the home of Mary West, a teacher at Limestone Creek Elementary School.
“…guests were invited to stand and share thoughts on childhood together, family, and what this occasion meant to them. Some said things about Edna Runner bringing them all together to share joy during holidays, getting them out of the house to do things, and caring, doing so much for the community; others thanked the teachers for helping children learn and thrive,” said Laura Tingo, who attended part of the event.
Thursday’s annual holiday event is not the only one at the Edna Runner Center, which opened in 1993.
Educators and volunteers at the center provide after-school care and summer programs for students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Runner, a South Carolina native who is well known in north county for her charitable activities, began the holiday program for senior citizens 17 years ago. Back then, she and her friends drove the residents around in their cars.
“It’s such a joy. The senior citizens truly enjoy meeting up with other people, viewing the lights and just celebrating the holidays with each other,” said Runner.
Free Thanksgiving dinner baskets — complete with turkey, vegetables, bread, potatoes and pie — were distributed to about 450 families Monday afternoon at the Limestone Creek neighborhood near Jupiter. The Thanksgiving event also has been held for the last 17 years at the center.
“When my mother passed, I would run into her dear friends around town and they would say to me that they missed seeing me, especially when we would visit them at the holidays,” she said. “So that’s what started the holiday event we host each year for our seniors.”