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Hundreds served holiday meal during drive-thru community dinner in Aztec

Facility's director says she saw lots of new faces this year

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — The driver of a gray van had barely pulled to the front of the line during the Aztec Senior Center's drive-thru community meal on Christmas when Cindy Iacovetto, the director of the facility, was at his rolled-down window to greet him.

"Are you hungry?" she asked before inquiring how many meals the man needed to take with him.

That scene repeated itself again and again as approximately 350 meals were served during the two-hour event that took the place of the center's traditional sit-down community meal on Christmas, which had to be refashioned this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was very different," Iacovetto said of the drive-thru experience. "It was just a lot of fun, and it seemed like there were a lot of new faces compared to what we had in the past. We certainly were touched by the people who were alone and who had lost loved ones (to the pandemic). No one should eat alone on Christmas."

Santa Claus and Aztec Senior Center director Cindy Iacovetto greet a visitor with a hot meal during the center's drive-thru holiday dinner on Christmas.

Iacovetto said the senior center staff and volunteers who took part in the effort were well prepared for the different nature of this year's Christmas dinner because they had served a Thanksgiving dinner drive-thru style last month, and they have been serving weekday senior center meals that way since the pandemic began in March.

"We just upped our game a little," she said.

Connie Hutchison, left, Melissa York and Elaine Lawson help prepare to-go meals in the kitchen at the Aztec Senior Center on Christmas.

The atmosphere on Christmas was buoyed by the presence of Santa Claus, who entertained visitors with a running monologue on how pooped he was from his previous night's work. That drew a series of smiles from drivers waiting for their meal of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans and sweet potatoes to be brought to them. Iacovetto noted with a laugh that more than a few of the female drivers felt compelled to flirt with Santa this year.

Worn out from a long night and a busy morning, Santa Claus pauses to take a load off during the drive-thru holiday dinner on Christmas at the Aztec Senior Center.

She also said the 350 meals the center served on the holiday was about the same number it serves for the sit-down dinner each year, so turnout remained steady despite the change.

A volunteer displays a holiday dinner of turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes and green beans that was served to drive-thru visitors on Christmas at the Aztec Senior Center.

A group of volunteers, senior staff members and drivers contributed to the success of the event, which was financed by sponsors and community donors.

"It's great fellowship, and the rewards are high, for sure," Iacovetto said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.