Tribune Print Share Text

Home for the holidays

Couples bring family, traditions to Maris Grove

Created date

November 23rd, 2009

Joe and Connie O Grady were accustomed to hosting Thanksgiving at their previous house, an affair that originally started with a few people gathering around the table and grew to the point where they had to move furniture around to accommodate the expanding family. About 40 people would attend, and everyone brought a dish. When we moved to Maris Grove in 2008, we didn t want to stop the tradition, Mr. O Grady says. So they decided to bring the party to Maris Grove. Last year s Thanksgiving meal was such a success that they continued the tradition again this year.

Extended family

[caption id="attachment_6793" align="alignright" width="280" caption="(File photo)"][/caption] To get started, the couple met with Maris Grove s director of catering services to plan the menu. Mrs. O Grady was unsure how the meal would turn out; she had certain recipes that she usually made with love. The catering team assured her that they would prepare her recipes just as she would. (She provided them with instructions for her special dishes to make sure.) Our granddaughter s favorite is Connie s mashed potatoes, and she was happy they tasted just like her grandmother s, Mr. O Grady says. I was uneasy at first, wondering how it would all work, Mrs. O Grady recalls, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Something the O Gradys weren t surprised about was the level of attention the catering staff gave them. After all, Maris Grove is their home, and the staff is an extension of their family. All they had to do was a little planning and show up for the meal. The people in the catering room had a willingness to make it as much like home as they could, and they did, Mr. O Grady says. Forty people attended last year s Thanksgiving feast, with family traveling from as far away as California. The O Gradys 5 children and 15 grandchildren were in attendance, and the numbers just keep growing.

Community perks

There are many advantages to having the party in Maris Grove s catering room. There is no cleanup, and there s plenty of room for everyone. At our old house, the cleanup was like a mob scene without police protection, Mr. O Grady laughs. Now, when the meal is finished and the bellies are full, all the O Gradys have to do is stand up and walk back to their apartment home. It s very easy here, Mrs. O Grady says. It s exactly like your own home only with a bigger room, they echo at the same time. ' ' '

Neighborhood Christmas party

Last year, Janet and Guy Sileo started another tradition: hosting a "Maris Grove family" ' Christmas party including residents of their building, Vernon Woods. ' More than ' 125 people showed up, and it was so much fun that they wanted to do it again this year. The 2009 gathering is planned for December 12. It gives us a warm feeling that all the people of Vernon Woods congregate and get to know each other, Mrs. Sileo says. It s a good way to connect with your neighbors and extend a greeting, Mr. Sileo chimes in. ' The feedback ' was so positive, in fact, that ' other neighborhoods, like Meadowlark Terrace, have duplicated the concept.

Who got the party started?

It all started in September 2008, when the Sileos threw a floor party to celebrate their one-year anniversary of moving to Maris Grove. Only the neighbors living on their floor could attend. But this year's ' building party will be ' a little more complicated; there are six floors to account for, and the Sileos decided to get their neighbors involved. It s easy to get a party going if you all work together, Mrs. Sileo says. The couple reached out to one person on each floor, designating that person to collect the RSVPs and the money for each resident ' (the party costs about $15 per person). The process ' allows people to make a personal connection with their neighbors. It s so much nicer because everyone is more familiar with each other, Mrs. Sileo says. They plan to have the party in the catering room, where the staff takes care of everything. People can bring their own liquor and wine, and there s a portable bar that Mr. Sileo helps run. Last year s holiday menu consisted of lobster tempura, crab dip, beef wrapped in dough, cranberry meatballs, chicken skewers, mushrooms stuffed with sausage, and this year s menu is sure to delight.