Sunday, November 29, 2009

So, you think you know your town!

I’ve lived here a long time and I really pay attention, but I missed this one completely!
by Charlie Leck

We’ve got a real live saint living in our town. Her name is Purita and she’s sweet, lovely, attractive and she sings like an angel! Actually she doesn’t live here in our community; though she formerly did – up there on Pagenkopf Road. A few years ago, she and her husband moved to an adjoining village. We still count her as one of ours.

I had no idea what an extraordinary contribution Purita was making to our community until just a few weeks ago when someone quite inadvertently told me about it.

“You’re kidding?” I asked in amazement.

The fellow looked at me and cocked his head a bit as if he were a spaniel or labrador.

“Why would I kid? She’s been doing it for years.”

“How come I didn’t know about this?”

Well, again, the guy looked at me as if I were from outer-space, or something. How was he to know why I was so ignorant about this incredible woman and what she did every Thanksgiving Day?

“She’s a bit of a saint, you know,” he said in a gentle, off-hand manner, “and does her work quietly and she doesn’t want publicity.”

“But, there are plenty of us who’d like to help – to contribute.”

“Oh, she’s got plenty of people involved. Danny Dobozinski – you know, Dobo, from Dobo’s Café – he does all the cooking for her – sends over the turkeys and all the fixin’ and the pies. He even sends enough pies that every family can take one home. Along with all that, he sends cakes and other goodies. It’s a real Thanksgiving feast and the people who’ve been coming for years almost treat it like a family situation. They’re all glad to see each other again and to join together on such an important day.”

I was starting to get the picture, but I didn’t think my town had people in it who needed a place to dine on Thanksgiving.

“Oh, it extends beyond our town. People in surrounding communities are invited to come. It’s all absolutely free. If you’re on your own – lonely maybe – or not up to fixin’ your own dinner – or struggling financially – or just plain don’t want to go to all the trouble – they're all invited to come to the city hall to feast together. Some of the guests are local folks – well healed, but at the age where it’s difficult to do the whole Thanksgiving thing. There are Hispanics who don’t know all the traditions. There are some people who aren’t capable of putting together their own big dinner.”

“I want to help,” I said. “How can I help?”

“Don’t think you’re needed,” was the answer that bit pretty hard. “Purita’s got it all figured out. You don’t need to mess in everything you know. This might be one thing you just ought to keep your nose out of and let it run as it always has.”

That was pretty tough talk and it got me burned a little. There seemed to be all kinds of implications in that statement that I couldn't get hold of.

“Well, what if I just donated a little money to help Danny with the costs?”

“His whole family is involved. I think they can handle it okay.”

“Well, I want to talk to Purita, to tell her how pleased I am that she does this. What’s her phone number?”

“I don’t know. Let me call her first and ask her if it’s okay to give it to you.”

Well, I left the conversation feeling like I had some strange disease and had to be isolated away from this event. Was there some fear I’d mess it up?

A couple days later the fellow emailed me Purita’s phone number and said I could call her. So, I did. I told her how moved I was by what she does here in town. I asked if she needed help or whether I could donate some funds. Turns out she might have some need for drivers to get people to and from the dinner; and Danny might appreciate some help with the cost of the thing.

“It’s gotten pretty expensive for him,” she said. “Why don’t you check with him!”

Danny’s a great guy, too. He has a wonderful café in the town just on our northern border. Man, what fabulous home-made baked goods they serve and sell over the counter. His whole family – his parents and siblings – are all very good people who contribute lots to special projects in our town. They’re very involved in stocking our food shelves so people can get food in emergencies. Danny always has a smile on his face and always has time for a long hello even though the café might really be jumping. He welcomed a little bit of help.
A couple of days before Thanksgiving, Purita asked me to stop over at City Hall to peek in on the event and listen in on some of the singing and celebrating that would go on after dinner.

I was pretty overwhelmed by it all. The hall was big enough, but there was a good size crowd of diners there. The food looked splendid and the volunteers were efficient and good humored and having a ball.

Purita gave me permission to take a few photos. I chatted with lots of people and found every story amazingly different. One local, long time resident of our community lost her husband a few years ago. The dinner is perfect for her. She loves getting out and meeting new people and enjoying the time with them. Another lady lives in one of our up-scale communities, but is alone and doesn’t find it much fun to do a Turkey dinner by herself. There were new residents to the area who were struggling to find work and settle in. What a great opportunity to meet new people and “network” as we call it. Then, there were some folks who couldn’t manage to do a dinner on their own.

Purita reaches out to all of them and wraps her love around them and makes sure they are invited to join in the big Thanksgiving feast. She urges all the volunteers to look out for folks who need a place to dine on this big, wonderful holiday.

At the end of the feast, Purita leads them in song. Her voice is so sweetly strong and brilliant that it brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.

“Oh, I could listen to her all day,” one fellow leaned over and said to me. “She’s a saint, you know.”

“Yeh!” I got the idea that he was correct. We have a saint right here in our town, pouring her love out on so many people. She brings them happiness and love.

“Let’ sing this one,” Purita said into the microphone. “It’s a perfect song for today.”

Her voice sends chills through me and, when I close my eyes, it is as if an angel hovers overhead with her gentle, protective wings spread above and around us.

“I see trees of green, red roses too,
I see them bloom, for me and you.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

“I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

“The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky,
Also the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, say how do you do?
They're really saying, I love you.

“I hear babies crying, I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

“Yes I think to myself... what a wonderful world.”

She loves Purita and loves her Thanksgiving Days with her!

Happy to be with friends and enjoying a fine dinner!

Happy to be surrounded by friends and an angel!

Happy, kind volunteers who make it a great day!

Lining up for left-overs to take home!

The community room at City Hall is nearly full -- and certainly filled
with happiness and good feelings.

The songs weren't real familiar, but they still sounded pretty!

There were volunteers who did all the work with smiles on their faces.

By word of mouth and with simple, little signs like this one, people find out
about the Happy Thanksgiving celebration at City Hall. All it requires is
making a reservation ahead of time.

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