To say that the Johnston Senior Center rang in 2012 in style would be an understatement.
“I’d have to call this the party of the year in Johnston,” said Chris Giardina, a special officer with the Johnston Police who also serves as an advisor with the department’s Explorers Post 405. “This reminds me of the old days of the El Marocco.”
With Vini Ames providing a musical backdrop and eight area retirement agencies donating different foods to accompany the Marchetti’s Restaurant Italian buffet, the Senior Center turned back the hands of time to when the building housed the El Marocco Supper Club, formerly the state’s premier dinner and entertainment venue.
The only remaining portion of that one-time nightspot is the front lobby.
“The entire night went very, very well,” said Assistant Director Millie Santilli. “It couldn’t have been any better. This was just a perfect evening. It brought back the old El Marocco Club elegance.”
Guests wore party hats and carried noisemakers, while others danced all night to music played and sung by Ames, who was accompanied by his wife Stephanie on the keyboard. Singer Debbie Larson lent her talents as well, and Larson emphasized she is “a Johnstonian at heart.”
Nearly a dozen volunteers in black ties pitched in to serve the buffet, provided by Marchetti’s Italian Restaurant of Cranston, and tended the cash bar.
Even Johnston High School senior Jen Castiglioni, who has the rank of Major with the Police Explorers Post 405, gave up her time on New Year’s Eve to help center staffers perform such chores as clearing tables.
Steve Booker, an executive chef from Pocasset Bay Manor and his counterpart, cook Brenda Myette, were sent by their employer to prepare and carve the sirloin donated by Pocasset Bay.
“Steve and Brenda were wonderful,” said Santilli. “Their appearance really enhanced the party.”
More than 100 people attended the New Year’s Eve gala, the result of a planning process that began back in March.
“Please let it be known that this was a collaborative effort of the entire JSC staff,” Santilli said. “Everyone ... Tony Zompa [executive director], Denise Bell [center coordinator], Marie Venditti, Grace D’Andrea and Debbie Ross ... the end result was a great time was had by all. And that’s what fuels our staff, especially since we’re limited in numbers and everybody pitches in to help.”
The Bridge at Cherry Hill, which donated the shrimp cocktail and also the cannolis that were served during dessert, was another agency that had a lot to do with the night’s success.
Likewise, the North Bay Manor donated the huge vegetable platters that had a variety of flavored dips. Briarcliffe Manor donated the fruit platters, and Victoria Court supplied the cheese platters and several staffers. Cortland Place donated their homemade apple pies and other desserts.
Even 1302 Market Place (Roman Deli), that’s located on Atwood Avenue, made the continental breakfast special with its famous frittatas. Atwood Wine & Spirits of 426 Atwood Avenue in Cranston supplied the liquor.
The New Year’s Eve gala was the second such fundraising event organized and hosted by the JSC. Last year’s entertainment was supplied by the Johnston Dance and Performing Arts (J-DAPA) group.
Already, Johnston seniors and center staff are thinking about plans for next year’s New Year’s bash.
“Hopefully another fundraiser that either surpasses or equals this year,” Zompa said. “It is events like this that helps us put money back into the Center so that we can continue to supply a number of services for all our seniors.”