opa_locka_dancing_1.jpgOPA-LOCKA – With Valentine’s Day approaching, City Commissioner Luis B. Santiago bestowed “lots-of-love” to more than 150 of the city of Opa-locka’s most valued residents when he hosted the “Young at Heart, Super, Savvy, Seniors on the Move Extravaganza” on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Santiago said he chose to unify the community with a multi-lingual affair, where “our similarities will shine through the seniors of this community who laid the foundation for us all,” in his first event since winning the commissioner seat in November.

“We are brothers and sisters living in the city of Opa-locka and no matter what age, color or nationality, we are united,” Santiago said regarding the 3 – 8 p.m. program at Sherbondy Village, 215 Perviz Avenue, sponsored by the mayor and commission in partnership with the Parks and Recreations Department.

“This is a family affair, but we must recognize, honor and respect all our seniors for the achievements of this city. I love my seniors and my city.”

The guests of honor, representing decades of history, celebrated their youth and razor-sharp skills while line-dancing, responding with quick wit and vying for prizes during multiple rounds of Bingo.

Among the prizes of cash, gift cards, toasters, crock pots, coffee makers, china, flatware and other gifts, Jose Gonzalez won a stainless steel cookware set. Lola Roberts, the city’s queen, reigned with a total of $100 in cash and gift cards.

Six-month Opa-locka resident Rose Bowe and 10-year-old Imana Williams each won a 15-piece baking set. Imana was one of the youth allowed to participate in Bingo, under the condition that any prizes won would be contributed to a senior at the event. She donated her winnings to Alice Brown.

Hearing-impaired senior Judy Jones, accompanied by her daughter Dorothy, who interprets through sign language, stated that her mother was born deaf, but that doesn’t prevent her from enjoying the senior life. Jones won pots and a sandwich maker when her numbers were called during Bingo and a raffle, respectively.

Following other giveaways, Maria Paulino left the extravaganza with the most desired gift of the evening, a 40-inch high-definition television, donated to her by another youth who won the final Bingo game of the night. Paulino, who won a bed set earlier, shared a heartbreaking story about the loss of her son in December. She expressed appreciation to Santiago for the seniors extravaganza, which she labeled “a blessing.”

As the seniors traveled “back down memory lane” with old-school American and Latin music by D.J. Vance Stringer, harpists Mariano Gonzalez Ramirez and Alberto Sanabria Fleitas from Amerindia Sound, the youths were entertained by a blow-up slide, bounce houses and other activities.

Santiago said he wanted to accommodate everyone, so he provided a choice of delights such as cotton candy, snow cones, cake, hot dogs, hamburgers, yucca, plantains, pork, congre, yellow rice and chicken, prepared by Juanita’s Kitchen and Mama Delores. 

Mayor Myra L. Taylor, Vice Mayor Joseph L. Kelley, Commissioner Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson and Commissioner Timothy Holmes, along with city staff and volunteers from the Swagg of Unity nonprofit organization, were in attendance to support and assist in spreading love to the seniors, some of whom said they will never forget that Santiago’s first city of Opa-locka event was a tribute to them.