GALVESTON — The cruise ships docked in Galveston beckon invitingly, offering a respite from daily routines and responsibilities.

For those wanting the same feeling but on a much quicker getaway, the Mercy Park Association of Galveston’s first fundraiser will be a shipshape event.

The FriendSHIP Luncheon Cruise weighs anchor on Nov. 10 for an afternoon of nautical adventure on the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat as it travels the high seas of Offatts Bayou.

“Even though we’ve been honoring senior citizens every year since 2008, this will be our first fundraising event,” Mercy Park founder Joyce Daniel said.

“We wanted it to be very special, so we’re really playing up the boating theme and encouraging guests to wear something nautical.

“Even if they don’t, we have sailor caps for them so that everyone can get in the spirit.”

Meals are a favorite part of most cruises, and the FriendSHIP Luncheon Cruise is no exception. Chef Andres Castaneda, executive chef at the Moody Gardens Visitors Center, has planned a luncheon menu as varied as the scenery visible from the decks of the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat. Fragrant herbs elevate the luncheon’s tilapia and baked chicken entrees, and Castaneda is executing an assortment of seasonal desserts.

The afternoon cruise will serve to familiarize more people with the programs of Mercy Park, which is located at 51st Street and Avenue M in Galveston.

“Ten years ago, it was an abandoned lot,” Daniel said. “I had a vision to make it something that would be positive for the whole neighborhood.

“Now, we use it for National Night Out, an annual prayer rally, and, this year, a Halloween party for the children of the neighborhood.”

The park features comfortable seating and serene surroundings watched over by an imported Italian statue depicting Divine Mercy.

Besides maintaining and improving the park, the Mercy Park Association is best known for its annual banquet honoring senior citizens, ages 80 and up, for their lasting impact on their community.

“Seniors endured sacrifices and persisted in what really matters,” Daniel said. “They touch hearts, change lives and have high hopes with such low profiles.”

Each year, the Mercy Park Association board selects recipients for a “Yellow Rose” recognition based on their service to the community and their church.

“Yellow roses are the traditional symbol of friendship,” Daniel said. “Our plan originally was to select a dozen Yellow Rose honorees each year, but it always turns out to be 16 or 18 because there are so many deserving seniors.”

Daniel said the organization tries to shine the spotlight on unsung heroes as much as on the community leaders recognized elsewhere for their contributions.

Butter Herb Tilapia

6 3- to 5-ounce tilapia fillets

1⁄4 cup butter

1 teaspoon thyme

1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon paprika

1 fresh lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together the butter, thyme and paprika set aside. Slice or cut the lemon into wedges.

Place fish in foil-lined shallow sheet pan. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and spread the herb butter mixture over the fish.

Bake the fish for about 10-15 minutes or until it flakes easily. Place the fish on a serving tray and garnish with the lemon.

(SOURCE: Recipe provided by Chef Andres Castaneda, Moody Gardens)

Rosemary Baked Chicken

1 3-pound chicken, cut in 8 pieces

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

4 stems rosemary leaves, chopped (save 1 stem with leaves for garnish)

1⁄4 cup lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a sheet tray, place the cut chicken, spacing them out evenly skin side up.

In a bowl, mix together salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder and rosemary. Drizzle the chicken with the lemon juice and sprinkle all of the seasoning evenly.

Bake the chicken until golden and cooked through, 40-50 minutes. Place the chicken on a serving tray and garnish with rosemary.

(SOURCE: Recipe provided by Chef Andres Castaneda, Moody Gardens)

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