For the past 19 years Barbara Jones of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has made a Christmas Dinner a time of gathering for senior citizens where festivities and honor of the season is possible.
Barbara Jones had seen the senior citizens buying boxed dinners from a local 7-eleven where she had worked and the store was about to close down back in the 1990’s.
When Jones left the 7-Eleven she became a Community Service Officer for the Hillsboro County Sheriff’s Office in 1993 and remembered the Senior Citizens who had been purchasing those boxed Christmas meals and by 1996 she was making sure that they had something better. MUCH BETTER!
According to The Tampa Tribune: Students and faculty from Riverview High School and East Bay High School cook and serve the turkey, ham, stuffing and other items that attendees pile onto their paper plates.
The Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce and businesses such as the American Legion, Publix and Chick-fil-A donate funds and gifts, which include household ornaments, gift cards, socks, combs, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
Going to the party is a great incentive for some seniors as it may be the only event that they are able to enjoy during the holidays that can be very lonely for many people. As and example The Tribune wrote about Ruth White, 80, and her husband, Garrett, who became regulars at the Christmas dinner after turning 65. White also helps Jones organize the event. Ruth White said her husband eagerly awaited the dinner each year until he died in June 2014 at 80. Not even a heart operation in 2012 could keep him from attending the event. “He insisted on getting out of the hospital that night,” she said. “He wanted to go to the party.”
Although Jones is credited with founding the Christmas dinner, she said those who have helped make it a success deserve equal credit.
“I get to help the community, be a part of the community, and show that the sheriff’s office gives back, too,” Jones said. “I’m not a hometown hero at all; my community is.”
To reserve a spot at the Christmas dinner, call Barbara Jones at (813) 672-7822.
A video was obtained of the event from 2014 from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Facebook page showing so many seniors that enjoyed the festivities and the people who helped serve them.