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February 22, 2011 > Eat crab, support seniors

Eat crab, support seniors

By Julie Grabowski

Indulge your taste buds and support an important local resource by participating in the 4th Annual Senior Center Crab Feed Friday, February 25. Hosted by Merrill Gardens of Fremont, the event combines excellent food and good company in an effort to raise funds for the Fremont Senior Center.

Head Chef/Food Services Manager Ron D. Narayan and Assistant Chef Jeffrey Castillo from the Senior Center collaborate with Merrill Garden's Head Chef Nick Olla to create a delectable meal of fresh crab flown in from Oregon, spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, coffee and dessert. Strolling musicians will create atmosphere on guitar and mandolin, and a raffle will feature a selection of 35 gift baskets donated by local businesses. Win flowers, gift cards, winery items, Peet's Coffee, or a signed football courtesy of the 49ers.

Organizers use to do a fancy dinner at one of the local hotels for their fundraiser, but the amount of work and stuffy atmosphere of the event had them rethink their plans. The crab feed emerged out of the desire to provide a fun evening that was casual and less intense. And the participation of Merrill Gardens, who generously provided accommodation for all four years, helps keep costs down and ensure the majority of funds go to the Senior Center.

"We get excellent crowds," says Senior Center Manager Linda Olla. "Large parties of people are coming back year after year."

While funds raised are for general use, they mostly go to help subsidize the Senior Center's meal program, which is their biggest expense. Chefs Narayan and Castillo cook onsite every day using fresh ingredients. Last year around 21,000 meals were served at the center, and 65 percent of seniors consider the lunch they receive there to be their main meal of the day. A yearly membership to the center costs $30 for Fremont residents, which allows them to purchase lunch for $4, while non-residents pay $40 for membership and $6 for lunch.

"We're bumping up against increases all over the place," says Olla, claiming their prime interest is in keeping costs down and prices low for those who use the program. Last year's event raised $21,000 and organizers hope to at least equal that amount if not raise more.

The Fremont Senior Center serves thousands of seniors, offering about 50 different groups and classes in addition to their meal program. From yoga and tai-chi to classes on current events, creative writing, drawing and painting, and Chinese calligraphy, the center provides a place to keep physically and mentally active, manage nutrition, and make friends. Love has also been known to bloom at the center, resulting in marriage celebrations.

A trip program offers day excursions around the area as well as international trips, like the upcoming adventure to Ireland. Special meals and events keep a fun and festive air about the center, so there is no shortage of things to look forward to.

The Senior Center also has a great volunteer program with currently 150 to 160 people, who according to Olla "really make the center work."

Olla says, "People have told me their lives are enhanced and prolonged by having a senior center." And she knows there are some who stay away because they don't want to hang out with old people, but she claims those at the center are young at heart and thinks skeptics will be pleasantly surprised when they experience what the Senior Center has to offer. "It's a really neat place, it's really alive," she says.

The crab feed aims to keep this vital city resource thriving, and ensure affordable and enjoyable opportunities for seniors now and in years to come.

Tickets are $40 apiece with a limited number remaining, and while previous years have been close to selling out, Olla says this is the first time they're anticipating starting a waiting list. So, don't show up with your appetite and no reservations; make sure to call ahead and reserve a place so you won't miss out.

For those who want to support the Senior Center but cannot attend, or if the event does sell out, donations to the City of Fremont can be sent to the center, attention Linda Olla. There is also a Donor Tree in the lobby of the Senior Center where those interested can purchase a brass leaf for $125, acorn for $500, or stone for $1,000 and have it engraved with the wishes or remembrance of their choice.

The event begins at 6 p.m., but the garden room will be open at 5:30 p.m. for attendees to purchase soda, water, beer and wine, and view raffle baskets. For more information or to make reservations call Linda Olla at (510) 790-6606 or Deborra Lay (510) 790-6602.

Senior Center Crab Feed
Friday, February 25
6 p.m.
Merrill Gardens at Fremont
2860 Country Dr., Fremont
(510) 790-6606
www.fremont.gov/crabfeed
Tickets: $40

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