Hundreds of Guyanese and other seniors were fêted at a holiday season free luncheon as well as gifts on Sunday, December 21 at the Villa Russo in the heart of Richmond Hill. Several non-Guyanese (Italians, Irish, African-Americans, Hispanics) also attended the event which saw a few politicians address the guests. It was jampacked – one of the largest luncheons hosted in the community. It was a wonderful, entertainment-packed holiday luncheon for senior citizens interspersed with speeches from the community organizers. The lunch was served at no cost to anyone, allowing seniors an afternoon out to socialize with other local senior citizens and to reminisce about the old Guyanese Christmas. It provided them with much needed merry-making.
The elderly Guyanese American citizens had a most joyous time celebrating the yuletide season and the end of the year in New York.
The Christmas luncheon was organized by several volunteers, including real estate developer Frank Singh, the Indo-Caribbean Federation, District Leader Dr Taj Rajkumar, Richmond Hill Development Organization led by Vishnu Mahadeo, Tulsi Mandir, Shri Lakshmi Narayan Mandir and the Arya Samaj USA, among others. It has been an annual rite for the last decade. Many shelled out their personal money to acquire gifts and food for the luncheon. Several community leaders were recognized by legislators from the state and city with certificates for their volunteerism and charitable activities, and for spreading joy to the poorer sections of the society.
Local artistes from the community entertained the crowd for free. There was also deejay music and karaoke. Villa Russo provided the space and staff for the catering while some businesses donated a medley of American and dainty traditional Guyanese dishes – fried rice, chicken, dhal puri, curried lamb, salad, chowmein, kheer, lasagna, and a variety of other dishes.
Frank Singh gave opening remarks and also emceed the event. Frank thanked the community organizations for their contributions to make a success of the event showing appreciation for the seniors who helped to make the community what it is. He also thanked those who gave donations as well as the host of volunteers who worked very hard to put together the programme and organize gifts for everyone. It was extremely hard work to prepare holiday gifts for such a large gathering. The seniors expressed much appreciation for community leaders thinking about them.
The seniors enjoyed the excellent music of the yuletide season as well as old time songs – chutney, Bollywood, carols and music by local artistes.
There was a nice unique medley of listening and danceable music. And many of the seniors took to the dancing floor, some with walking sticks shaking their body to the wonderful music.
Many said it was an event they will remember and they always look forward to it to socialize with those they had not seen for the year, as well as to reflect on the life of those who passed away recently. A minute’s silence was observed in recognition of the work of community activist Jagdesh Mohunlall, who was one of the founders of the annual luncheon.
The non-Guyanese, non-Indians also showed their appreciation of what the Indo-Guyanese community in greater Richmond Hill had done for them.
The Italian, Irish and Germans who patronized the luncheon came from groups in greater Richmond Hill that were initially opposed to the settlement of Indo-Caribbeans and South Asians in the area during the 1980s. But they have come to appreciate South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans for their enormous contributions to society and for uplifting the neighbourhood, with real estate value more than quadrupling with the rehabilitation of the area by these new immigrants. The Christmas luncheon is merely one of several public events hosted by Indo-Guyanese community leaders that is patronized by non-Indians who show much appreciation for Guyanese cultural activities. Several Guyanese also manage food pantries doling out a lot of goodies to less fortunate New Yorkers for the season.