‘Berry Blessings

By Melanie Yingst

June 5, 2014

Melanie Yingst

Staff Writer

TROY — Troy Senior Citizens sliced and diced more than 1,430 pounds of fresh strawberries well before noon on Thursday to prepare for one of the Troy Strawberry Festival’s traditional treats - strawberry shortcake.

The sales of the shortcake, at just $4 a serving, is the organization’s largest fundraiser which sweetens up the seniors’ programs throughout the year.

Located just off the Market Street Bridge, Troy Senior Citizens’ shortcake will be a strawberry staple on the Great Miami River Levee where children’s activities and entertainment will be provided throughout the festival.

It’s also one of the few places festival-goers can grab a seat out of the heat to enjoy their strawberry shortcake in the air conditioning.

Last year’s strawberry shortcake sales sold out with more than 4,000 servings dished out to patrons.

Troy Senior Citizens President Neil Webster only had one request for the festival weekend.

“Just pray for good weather,” he said.

Webster and friends, including members Jean and Mel Evenden and others, took a much deserved break after their morning of slicing up strawberries on Thursday. Members gathered together and shared memories of past festivals.

“It went fast,” said Webster. “These people are fantastic. The young people did a fabulous job as well.”

Webster stressed the importance of shortcake fundraiser to its more than 400 members.

“We can’t make it without it - it’s our support,” Webster said. “We all work hard, but we have a lot of fun.”

Webster shared how the festival is one of the few times of the year that all the members gather together to serve up the sweet shortcake.

“The fellowship is wonderful,” he said “You get to see most of the people out here on the weekend that you don’t always see at the center.”

Webster shared how the senior citizen center is a blessing to him and local residents around the county who gather together. The fundraiser keeps membership dues to approximately $20.

Funds also help with projects such as new flooring in the main area and more accessible side walks and ramps for members to access the fun and fellowship at the center. This year’s fundraiser monies will help the center add an automatic door for more accessibility.

Executive director Tamara Baynard-Ganger said the non-profit senior center is supported by United Way of Troy, but also mainly through the shortcake sales.

“We definitely need a successful Strawberry Festival,” Baynard-Ganger said. “We offer a lot of programs not only for our members, but for all seniors like our health workshops.”

Baynard-Ganger said one unique feature of the Troy Senior Citizen Center’s location is that it is one of the few places at the festival which offers air conditioning and a cool place to sit and enjoy festival food.

“We are pretty close to setting up all the tables for people to come in and sit down and enjoy your shortcake,” she said.

“They look forward to coming in here,” said Webster. Members participate in activities ranging from line dancing, cards and crafts through the center. Webster said he enjoys when Troy High School students come to the center to play games on the Wii and Euchre as well as when the jazz band performs for them.

“I’ll ask one of the students what grade they are in and they’ll say, ‘I’m a senior.’ And then I tell them, ‘I am, too!” Webster said with a chuckle.

The Troy Senior Citizens will begin to sell their shortcake at 6 p.m. Friday during the evening’s pre-festival kick-off. On Saturday, sales for all food vendors will begin at 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. or until they run out.

“We ran out last year,” said Webster. “That’s a good problem to have.”

Melanie Yingst can be reached at (937) 418-0781, by email myingst@civitasmedia.com or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews