As has been tradition in recent years, the Naperville Y and the Naperville Park District have joined hands again to host the annual Community Christmas Day Luncheon at 11:30AM Tues., Dec. 25, at the Chicago Marriott Naperville.

First organized by the YMCA in the 1980s, the holiday gathering welcomes senior citizens and other individuals in need who may find themselves alone on Christmas Day.

Organizers said that last year more than 150 individuals attended to enjoy good fellowship and a festive meal served by community volunteers. Thanks to generous donors, the holiday event is offered free of charge.

The 2018 YMCA/Naperville Park District Christmas Luncheon Committee is under the leadership of BRAD WILSON, TOM MIERS, R.J. BARTELS and RAY MCGURY. The annual event is slated from 11:30AM to 1:30PM Tues., Dec. 25, at the Marriott Chicago Naperville.

“This year we’ve expanded the event beyond seniors to include clients of DuPage Pads, Bridge Communities, Loaves and Fishes Community Services, etc.,” noted Park District Executive Director Ray McGury, one of the leaders of the committee. “Thanks to the community’s generosity, last year’s event was a great success. We served a delicious dinner to well over 150 people. And they enjoyed fun games, a visit from Santa and, best of all, sharing of warm fellowship and a sense of being with family.”

“The Christmas luncheon is one of our favorite traditions,” added Naperville YMCAs Executive Director R. J. Bartels. “The dinner was founded on the idea that no senior should be alone during the holidays. …It began with an anonymous donor who underwrote the meal. He had picked up his mother from a local senior residence one year and saw many people alone with no one. So he approached the YMCA about sponsoring a gathering just for seniors.”

The early luncheons served 40-50 people back when the Holiday Inn Select was where the Marriott is now. More than a few times, Mayor George Pradel came as Santa, Bartels recalls.

In 2010, when construction began for the Marriott, the Naperville Park District offered its Community Hall at the Rubin Riverwalk Community Center. When funding no longer was available, the YMCA partnered with the park district and began finding support from generous individuals as table sponsors.

Other recent highlights included sing-a-longs led by Jeanne Ripsky who accompanied on the piano, Bingo conducted by park district staff and center pieces created by District 204 students that were given away after the dinner, Bartels added.

“It’s heart-warming to see how much our guests as well as our volunteers appreciate this gathering,” he said.

Reminiscing about folks who volunteer to help year after year, Bartels added, “In fact, one dedicated couple, Felicia and Bob Faessel, have done the coat check forever.”

“We’re happy to be able to partner with the Y to host this great community event,” continued McGury.”We are very blessed again this year, the Marriott Hotel has offered to host this year’s lunch in their ballroom. … After you attend an event like this one and look at the faces of those sharing a meal and time together, you honestly better understand and feel the true meaning of Christmas.”

The community is invited to support this event by partially sponsoring a table for $100.00. The Christmas Luncheon is funded entirely through community donations. To sponsor a table, send contact information and a donation to: Christmas Luncheon c/o Ray McGury, Naperville Park District, 320 W. Jackson, Naperville 60540.

Interested seniors and families in need must make reservations by Mon., Dec. 17, by calling Polly Rhodes at (630) 527-6599 and leaving a message with guests’ names and the total number in their party.

The Chicago Marriott Naperville is located at 1801 N. Naper Blvd.