Tag Archives: Santa Maria

I’ve said it before…

…and it still holds true: Mah Jongg people are the nicest people! Case in example is dear Donna Eschen in Northern California:

Wife, mother, grandmother, great friend, Mah Jongg certified teacher and a very busy organizer totally running all of the many Mah Jongg activities at the Mussell Center in Santa Maria, CA. And, on top of all that – plus much more – Donna makes sure that the Alzheimer’s Association benefits from our beloved game by working day and night to sell the upcoming new NJML card for 2022, which resulted in the following donation this year (Donna does this every year; there is a place reserved for her in heaven):

Oh, and let’s not forget Donna’s wonderful weekly Mah Jongg newsletter (that’s where the below reminder is from!). If you’d like to subscribe, send your name and email address to Donna at Puffins@aol.com.

And, as a friendly reminder:


…to be a part of another Donna Eschen-involved event supporting the Special Olympics held this time at the Minami Community Center in Santa Maria, CA. We know that every event in which Donna is involved is always a smashing success and this one will be no different. Santa Maria is in the beautiful Santa Maria Valley but not far from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara…which means if you are looking for a way to banish those January winter blues, hop in your car and head up to this mini tournament. Just print out this form and send it in. There are still spots left!



If you are going to be anywhere near Central California (Santa Barbara County) in late January, please sign up for this fun and very worthwhile 2nd annual Mah Jongg tournament benefitting the Special Olympics Northern Santa Barbara County. Our dear friend Donna E is involved with putting this together and so we know it will be a great day!



832A8443Our wonderful friends, Donna and Boots, held a great tournament in Santa Maria. I think we can all pick up some fun ideas from the following message from Donna. I love the “Hand on the Wall” idea!

Wish I had been there!

Donna wrote:

Boots and I billed it as the “Biggest Little Tournament Ever”  There were 80 people with 60 of them as experienced and 20 newer players each with their own rotation and separate prizes. We had two separate categories so those newer players could play 3 games in the time allotted for the other group to play 4. It gave them an opportunity to be part of a tournament without feeling too anxious. They loved it!
Players came from as far away as Santa Barbara to the south and San Luis Obispo to the north. It only cost $7.00 to enter and first place got $150.00 with cash prizes for first, second, and third place given to experienced and newer players. We donated over $200.00 to a non-profit group in the city of Santa Maria.
We gave away boxes of “DOTS” candy to the first 27 people in the door to encourage people to arrive on time. We had a wonderful breakfast food spread. We played two rounds before a catered Panera lunch and one round after. During each round there was a special “Hand on the Wall” – if you made this hand you got a special prize. There was only one per round. 
We had an electric timer that everyone could see to know how many minutes were left. If you didn’t make any mahjes, we gave away Mounds candy bars (because we hoped you had “mounds” of fun) and Charleston Chews (because we know you had some good Charlestons). 832A8516Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.11.31 PM 832A8642832A8618 832A8679 832A8676 Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.16.18 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.15.38 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.15.08 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.12.49 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.12.20 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.11.09 PM



I know that most people think that it is only women playing American Mah Jongg – and perhaps it is true that the majority of players here in the U.S. are women. But we are seeing more and more men taking up the game…and loving it! Here’s proof of that by way of our dear friend Donna in Central California

“Hi Ann,

This is funny and should bring a smile to your face.

Today we played at our Sr. Center in Santa Maria. There are always 8 tables set up but the most we have ever been is 29. Today we hit 32 people including all 4 men! All 8 tables were filled and some of the regulars weren’t even there.

What a fun afternoon we had.  We play from 12-4 with some people coming early and a few leaving before 4. We are thrilled with this turnout. Although some people complain about the noise level getting a bit too high when a game is over but it passes. I ring a little bell when it gets “too much”. 

Anyway.. three of the  men happened to be playing with my sparkly pink set that Boots fondly nickname the “Barbie set”. I had the 4th man sit down for the pic and they were laughing about “tough enough to play Barbie”.. what fun..

 The second pic is “packing up Barbie”. The man in the red shirt is one of the very best players. I was a little skeptical when I bought the “sparkly pink” set that people wouldn’t like it but I wanted something different and everyone thinks it’s fun, including me!

There was so much going on today that sometimes I feel more like a “social director” than a player but it’s all in good fun.

Smile… hope you are feeling good!



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You know that I frequently post photos and news about our friend Donna in Central California. Recently Donna and one of her Mah Jongg groups had a one year anniversary party. Here are some photos from that party. But be sure to scroll all the way down for an interesting insight into this special woman.

Delicious brownie cake:1Some of the attendees in the next two photos. You can see part of a poster with Mah Jongg hands on it on the wall. If you won one of those hands, you went up to the poster and wrote your name after the winning hand. Prizes were issued at the end of the day.2More attendees:10This is Mary who started the Mah Jongg playing in Santa Maria about 25 years ago. She holds a tournament twice a year at her home. She “ceremoniously” cut the brownie cake.3In this photo she is wearing a  wonderful Asian apron that was her special gift.4This photo was taken just before the prizes were presented.Mr. Alex, the terrific guide dog, is sitting front and center!5Every time someone declared Mah Jongg,  their name went into a box. The woman on the right won $15 for having her name pulled; the woman on the left had her name drawn next and she won $5.00. 6Boots (on the right) had the most Mah Jonggs – FIVE! – and Diane (on the left) had four. They both received magnetic Mah Jongg tiles.7Here are the people who won specific hands. Boots won twice and Donna (far right) won once. The 2nd and 3rd women from the left are new players (and were Donna’s students) – one of them won on a Quints hand – you can only imagine how proud Donna was of her! Everyone here is holding lottery tickets that Donna bought for special prizes. Boots had two tickets and luckily won a free ticket on each one!8These 6 people did not have any winning hands – Donna had chocolate bars and boxes of Dots candy for them. They didn’t know what they were getting and she had them put their hands behind their backs and say “c” or “d” to claim their surprise gift. Love this!DSCN1801

Here are two attendees who came dressed according to the Mah Jongg theme!9So, it is clear that Donna really knows how to put on a great Mah Jongg event. But I had wondered what her background was all about – her (and our!) dear friend Boots was kind enough to let me know all about her. This is one very, very special lady – and I am honored to be her friend. You are not going to believe her background…all I can say is WOW!

Read on…

Dear Ann,

Just wanted to send this directly to you, rather than posting it. First of all, thanks for the birthday greetings.  I find it totally impossible to rationalize the fact that I’m 84!

I really wanted to share some thoughts on Donna.  I call her my “almost daughter” and she calls me “other mother.”  Donna was a special ed teacher  (in the same school  AND in the same classroom) for over 30 years.

Now that she’s retired, she is so busy using the pent up energy that obviously was stored up that I can’t believe it. She runs, jogs, walks all over town, participates in many charitable and recreational walking and running events, and, goes to exercise, zumba, and yoga several times a week.

She and her wonderful husband, Greg, have recently retired as professional photographers.  They’re both active in the local Corvette club, Greg plays in a community college band and is retired city planner. Donna has just been appointed to a committee on Active Aging through our local Recreation and Parks Dept.

And then there’s Mah Jongg. She is a great teacher, and you already know how innovative she is.  She has taught at least 30 people free of charge within the last year. Initially, we had a group of people who met on the 2nd and 4th Fridays at a local mobile home park clubhouse.  Sometimes we had three tables, seldom more than four.

A year ago, we started at the local senior center and made it a drop-in game. We created an e-mail newsletter that goes out the early part of the week. Now, the room is available every Friday and we are up to six tables and still growing, thanks to the human dynamo.

In addition to this, she plays in a regular Tuesday evening game, and hosts a Wednesday group in her home twice a month to enable her newer players to get more experience.

We bake together periodically (I now have a personal scullery maid!) so that she can learn how to do some of my old recipes.  We’ve made challah, kichel, various coffee cakes, with more sessions coming up. She and Greg photographed our 65th anniversary, and she put together the most remarkable album as their gift to us.

We e-mail, phone, instant message, etc. almost daily, and she still manages to stop by with some goodie or another. When we collaborate on the bi-monthly mahj newsletter, or the greeting card that we made for you, it is such a joy to bounce ideas off each other, back and forth. Just an example, when we did the first card for Julie Coolidge, the one who broke her collarbone, Donna’s first idea about it came while she was standing on her head at yoga class!  Then she let me know what she came up with, and we ran with it from there. Then I usually proof our finished product, and am now called “Eagle Eye.”

With all of this, I’ve barely skimmed the surface of what this “young” woman does for us and for many others.

Wishing you a “Refuah Schlemah” , with continued good health, and of course, a complete recovery.

With love,