It’s easy to survive the loss of some things—pencils, telephone numbers, even umbrellas—but when a name is accidentally left off a guest list, there’s only one thing to do—hurry over and make amends.
That’s why Lee Ann and Gloria were standing in front of Brother and Sister Facer’s doorway, knocking on the door. When the Facers answered, the two young women eagerly explained why they had come. “Our stake Mutual is having a Thanksgiving dinner for all the senior citizens in our stake, and we hope you will be able to come!”
“We’d love to!” exclaimed the older couple. “We haven’t had our children with us during the holidays in such a long time. What a special treat to be remembered by you young people. We’ll be there!”
As the two girls from the Taylorsville Utah First Ward, Taylorsville Utah Stake, walked back toward their homes, they breathed sighs of relief, knowing that at last all details were being taken care of.
The night of the dinner, the aroma of fresh-roasted turkey, steaming hot dressing, homemade rolls, and spicy pumpkin pie filled the hall of the stake center. But this time it was the Beehives, Mia Maids, and Laurels, instead of the Relief Society, who were found in the hot kitchen energetically filling plate after plate. And it was the deacons, teachers, and priests who were serving the meal, filling water glasses and clearing empty dishes. It was all a way of saying a big thank you to the senior citizens in the Taylorsville Stake—an appreciation dinner planned, prepared, and presented almost entirely by the Mutual-age youth in the stake.
The idea had originated in a stake youth committee meeting several months before. “We wanted to do a service project, something that would be a challenge and at the same time rewarding,” explained Kelly Jorgensen, stake youth chairman and member of the priests quorum in the Taylorsville Fifth Ward. “Our teachers quorum had given a dinner for the senior citizens in our own ward once, and we wondered if we could do the same thing on a stake basis. Someone mentioned that a lot of older people don’t have any children who come home for the holidays, so we decided to make it a Thanksgiving dinner in appreciation for all they have done for us.”
Two young people from each of the five wards were appointed to the planning committee. They were assisted by Sister Emma Morris, the stake Young Women president. Together they planned the evening and then worked diligently, sacrificing Saturday mornings and weeknights to see that all the details were completed before the night of the dinner. Committees were assigned to arrange for decorations, invitations, centerpieces, transportation, and food. With the exception of roasting the turkeys, the young people prepared most of the meal. One Laurel class adviser held a special pie-making workshop to help her girls in preparing their share of the evening’s desserts.
To help with the invitations, ward clerks provided lists with the names of all the persons over the age of 65. After delivering the invitations, hours and hours were spent calling to determine just how many would be able to come to dinner. A take-out service was planned for those who were not able to leave their homes.
Stake President Melvin M. Hall expressed appreciation for the work of the Mutual by saying, “We think this is a really nice thing our young people have conjured up! Too often we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of what we do that we forget to look over our shoulders to see who needs us. Too often we forget about our senior citizens.”
The night of the dinner was one of those late autumn, early winter evenings when the air is chilly and the setting sun reveals snow clouds over the mountains. As the guests arrived, usually accompanied by a young member of the priesthood and an adult leader, many buttoned up coats and sweaters and pulled cloaks a little snugger as they walked from the parking lot into the cultural hall.
Inside, the last details were being completed: the water poured, the microphone plugged in, the turkey sampled. The basketball nets in the hall had been decked with balloons and plastic streamers earlier that afternoon, and the turkey centerpieces made from pineapples were sitting on the tables. The entering guests were greeted with friendly smiles and warm handshakes. Those who had volunteered to help were kept busy throughout the dinner as they enthusiastically saw that everyone was served and made to feel welcome.
Midway through the dinner, however, after serving plates and plates of hot food, one hungry young deacon scrunched in the corner against the wall. When asked who he was hiding from, he sheepishly replied, “The food! We can’t eat until everyone is served!”
An added treat at the dinner (following the pumpkin pie) was a musical program. Before introducing the performers, Kelly told the older people, “We’d like to thank you and your generation for all the things you’ve done for us, for building this strong community we live in, and for raising good families.”
The first number on the program was performed by a trio of three young women who sang, “Who Are You?” an original composition by Michelle Nicoulaz and Marty Tyree. They were followed by six young men and women dressed in bluejeans and straw hats, who sang, “Grandma’s Feather Bed,” accompanying themselves on the piano and guitars. A modern dance number, which was choreographed by Michelle, was next, and the Harrison Family trio (piano, clarinet, and flute) completed the program with a medley of patriotic songs.
As the older people chatted with friends before leaving, it was easy to see the gratitude they felt at being remembered. Sister Sue Huggard, an 80-year-old member of the 21st Ward, exclaimed, “That was lovely to honor us old folks—I mean us young folks!” Sister LaVern Jones North of the First Ward added, “It couldn’t have been better. I wish we had a way to thank them.”
But the youth felt they had received all the thanks they needed. As Kelly expressed it, “It’s really great when you can see they are enjoying themselves, laughing with their friends, having a good time! That’s the best thanks of all.”