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Mardi Gras Celebration: 'Fat Tuesday' fundraises for senior citizens

Meals for the Elderly: Meal, auction, raffles

By Sawyer Ricard
On February 23, 2012

  • The Meals for the Elderly Association held their annual Mardi Gras party on Tuesday. About 800 people who attended could enjoy games, food, live music and entertainment. Mark McDaniel
  • Michaela Stokes and JB Marshall were crowned the 2012 Queen and King. Mark McDaniel

The Meals for the Elderly Association held the 12th annual ‘Meals for the Elderly Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday' celebration on Feb. 21 for 800 guests.

This event, which is one of three fundraisers held each year by the group, helps raise money every year for meals for senior citizens in San Angelo and the surrounding area. The event includes a meal, a silent auction, raffles, and various other games.

Leann Criswell, the volunteer director for Meals for the Elderly, said all the money raised from this fundraiser will benefit the group.

In past years, the fundraiser was quite successful and she hopes this year will be just as prosperous, she said.

This money is essential and every $3 raised will feed a person, she said.

The total for this adds up quickly because so many meals are delivered each day.

"We deliver 365 meals a day in San Angelo alone," Chairman of Mardi Gras Tina Stokes said.

One benefit of the event is that Meals for the Elderly doesn't pay for the supplies for the fundraiser.

The event runs entirely on donations from the community, Crisswell said.

"All of the food is donated," she said. "Over 25 restaurants had donated samples for this year."

Even the decorations are donated.

"The decorations are made by two lovely ladies who are sisters and have helped us for years," she said. "They make all of the decorations for us, set them up, and take them down. We don't touch a thing."

Time is also donated and the workers of the fundraiser are all volunteers, she said.

Some of the volunteers have worked at the event for several years.

"We have some long-term volunteers," she said. "They've been doing this and they like to do their particular jobs. They look forward to these jobs every year."

One of these long-term volunteers is Jessica Balliew.

Her reasons for volunteering are personal, Balliew said.

"The whole reason I volunteered is because my grandfather used to get meals," she said.

When he passed away she decided to volunteer in order to help other senior citizens like her grandfather.

Some of the usual volunteers for the program were at the event.

"A lot of them are here tonight serving as volunteers," Criswell said.

Some of the other volunteers come from Goodfellow Air Force Base and from organizations on campus as well as groups in the community itself.

"For example, the Honors Student Association contacted me and wanted to volunteer," she said.

A large group of volunteers are needed since so many guests are expected each year.

An event so large takes a long time to plan, Stokes said.

"We start planning the Mardi Gras right after the first of the year," she said. "A lot of planning and time goes into this."

Some of these guests, such as Jo and Gene Cook, attended the event in the past.

"We've been to about five," Gene Cook said.

However, they are not the only ones who enjoy the event.

For Stokes, attending the Mardi Gras became a family tradition.

"It's a big deal at our house," she said.

Her entire family gets involved, from making baskets to painting props.

"My whole family has been wrapped around this for weeks," Stokes said.

This event is popular with many people in the community.

"In the past we've had over 600 guests and we're hoping to beat that," Crisswell said.

Over 800 people attended, and the event was considered "a smashing success," Stokes said.

The event is open to the public every year for a general admission price.

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