Community, Seniors, Employees Celebrate Thanksgiving

By Judy Weeks

IMMOKALEE — The Thanksgiving holiday season is a time for reflection no matter who you are or where you live and the Immokalee community is no exception. There was so much to be grateful for and each individual had their own agenda. While renewing old friendships and sharing a bountiful dinner, we were able to capture the spirit of the holidays.


The Immokalee department of Elder Affairs invited seniors from each of the reservations to join them in celebrating Thanksgiving in their new Hot Meals Dining Room. This was the first year that the seniors had a facility that they could call their own. After several years of waiting, they moved into their temporary double wide trailer at the end of last year and finally in June were able to settle into the first floor of the new Administration Building.

On Nov. l5 the seniors hosted a Thanksgiving party with guests totaling more than 50 people, plus their chaperones. The beautifully decorated dining room was a buzz of conversation and laughter as they exchanged tribal gossip and reminisced about the good old days.

The Immokalee Recreation department conducted a Bingo extravaganza with players working from six to nine cards at a time. Elizabeth Oleo won the first game of regular bingo and Tony Sanchez triumphed in double bingo with four corners.

Growing more difficult with each game, they progressed to double postage stamps with four wild numbers, which Effie Osceola won. Nancy Sanchez took the Round Robin with three wild numbers, while Mary Sanchez was the first to finish the full card with three wild numbers.

Walmart gift cards were distributed to raffle ticket winners throughout the day and the lucky winners were: Ninah Billie, Mabel Frank, Elizabeth Oleo, Nancy Motlow and Louise Osceola.

The snacks that were passed around during the games woke up everyone’s appetite and the crowd anxiously anticipated their dinner. Taking out a few minutes to give thanks for the wonderful year and the good company they shared, the group listened intently while Louise Motlow offered the blessing.

Temporary Site Manager Lonnie Gore and her wonderful staff had spent the morning preparing succulent turkeys, hams and Cornish hens which were served with a variety of side dishes. Rachel Billie and Sylvia Marrero had made both pumpkin and plain frybread and traditional yellow corn sofkee for the festive occasion. For those who still had room, there were delicious desserts of pumpkin pie and a beautiful Thanksgiving cake.


On Nov. 22, Immokalee employees were invited to a Thanksgiving luncheon at the Immokalee Casino by Tribal Chairman Mitchell Cypress. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend at the last minute because of his participation at a memorial service.

In his absence he asked Senior’s chaperone Angie Arreguin to deliver his best wishes and read a short presentation that he had prepared for the occasion.

“I always look forward to this time of the year when I do a mental review and realize how very fortunate we are,” Arreguin said on Cyprees’ behalf. “Our ancestors were grateful to be alive, have a good shelter and food for their families. The Seminole Tribe has come a long way since those days, but the concept is still the same. We are very grateful for the prosperity that we share and I want to take this opportunity to thank the many wonderful employees who help us to achieve our goals. Your daily contribution to our work force is very much appreciated and with your continued support the Seminole Tribe stands strong.”

Eighty-seven Tribal employees attended the luncheon, which was a record number for Immokalee. One of the things which was particularly pleasing to the Chairman was the number of Tribal members who have joined the work force during the past several years. Combined with the other talented staff members, this shows a very positive outlook for the future.


The Immokalee community held its annual Thanksgiving dinner on the evening of Nov. 21 in the gym. The room had been attractively decorated in fall colors and the tables held floral centerpieces and small turkey figurines.

Immokalee Council Liaison Ralph Sanchez greeted the members of the community and reminded them of the many things for which they should be thankful.

“Immokalee has made great strides during the past twelve months since we last met here in the gym to celebrate Thanksgiving,” he said. “Our new Administration Building has finally been completed and for the first time we have the necessary facilities to properly conduct our daily operations. Our new clinic has provided us with not only a doctor, but a dentist to take care of our health needs.

“With the expanded Library and Education department, the younger generation are getting the assistance they need to enhance their studies and encourage their further education. These are just a few of the things that have impacted our community and are just a sample of the bright future that lies before us,” he said.”

Board Representative Raymond Garza reiterated Sanchez’s remarks.

“We have not only made great progress, but the majority of us have enjoyed good health and happiness,” Garza said. “And let’s not forget that we made it through the hurricane season without incident. As you give thanks this evening, please remember our armed forces who are not able to spend the holidays with their families, but are scattered across many fronts around the world protecting our freedom. Each day they lay their lives on the line for us and their sacrifices are many.”

Following the blessing offered by Mary Sanchez, the group visited the generous buffet which was loaded with turkey, ham, chicken and all the traditional side dishes. Numerous desserts tempted those hardy souls who were willing to make room in their already full stomachs.

Raymond Garza, Virginia Billie and Raymond Mora conducted the annual Thanksgiving raffle, which included cash prizes and Winn-Dixie gift certificates. Board President Moses Osceola had traveled all the way from Hollywood to share in the festive occasion.

“It has been a good year for the Seminole Tribe in many ways and Immokalee has definitely made a great deal of progress,” Osceola said. “The new Administration Building is just a glimpse of the great things that lay on the horizon. Plans are in the development stages for the new Community Center, Preschool, Church, Phase II of the Office facilities and a very elaborate Recreation Complex.

“Several new home sites have been approved and reconstruction has begun on many more. A convenience store and service center are planned for the immediate future. I can’t remember any year when we have made such great strides and I am very thankful to have had an opportunity to take part in it.”