Volunteers give up Thanksgiving Day to help others
While many of us slept in, cooked or just relaxed on Thanksgiving Day, a small group of Broward volunteers gave up their Thanksgiving morning to help others. On Thanksgiving, staff and many volunteers with Broward Meals on Wheels assembled Thanksgiving dinners for 600 seniors in Broward County, many who are shut-ins who can’t leave home, have no family nearby or are living in poverty.
“This is more than we’ve ever done—normally we have around 500 clients—and most of them are alone,” said Peggy Miller, executive director of Broward Meals on Wheels.
The agency has been around for about 25 years, and has been delivering Thanksgiving meals for 21 years, after staff began realizing a lot of the agency’s clients weren’t having a Thanksgiving dinner, said Miller.
Many of those visited on Thanksgiving are regular clients of the non-profit, which services about 10,000 seniors a year, though they have not reached capacity on how many people they can help. The agency’s mission is to provide essential services that improve health, promote independence, and reduce isolation of Broward’s seniors.
On Nov. 26, well over a hundred volunteers poured into GA Food Services in Pompano Beach to create an assembly line to package a full Thanksgiving dinner, complete with silverware, handmade placemats, flowers and cards from students at Peters Elementary and Silver Lakes Elementary.
Danielle Thomas came with her mom to help out.
“My mom has been doing this for so many years—after seeing how much she enjoyed it, I wanted to help,” said Thomas. “They’re generally happy to see us and we visit for a few minutes since most are celebrating by themselves.”
And that is the key, said Diane Geronemus, a BMOW board member,
“So many don’t have family here or don’t know where they are—it’s harder emotionally to be alone on a holiday,” said Geronemus, who also volunteers with her daughter Heather.
But this meal isn’t just a onetime gift. BMOW visits seniors weekly to deliver food, whether it’s a couple meals or a week of meals frozen and ready to cook, some prepared in a completely kosher kitchen. Grocery shopping services are available for those who aren’t living in poverty, but are unable to get to the store by themselves.
“It’s not just about income, it’s about helping them maintain themselves and their home,” explained Miller.
But low-income seniors are definitely a target. The National Meals on Wheels just released a study on “Senior Hunger in the United States.” Florida ranks 24th in seniors who aren’t getting enough food. To make matters worse, the rate of food insecurity among seniors living in Florida is 5.14 percent and growing. It is estimated that over 38,000 seniors right here in Broward County are at risk.
Six hundred of them ate on Thanksgiving thanks to drivers like Tom Gibbons, who, along with Eleanor Herman, helped deliver the meals.
“We volunteer every year—it’s very rewarding and it feels good to give back,” said Gibbons, a member of the Coral Springs Kiwanis Club.
Volunteer coordinator Daisy Bonilla was excited for all the support for BMOW. Bonilla started volunteering for BMOW after she lost her job and was eventually hired.
‘You just wake up feeling good and you leave feeling good,” she said of the work while overseeing the volunteers delivering the food on Thanksgiving.
Clinton Perkins, a board member, was one of them and delivered 10 meals in Oakland Park.
“It’s just important to be involved—seniors are often the most forgotten members of the community,” he said, “and many of them look forward to us.”
And indeed they do.
“They are wonderful,” said Victoria, an Oakland Park resident. “It’s a real miracle.”
To learn more about Broward Meals on Wheels and to get involved, visit http://www.bmow.com/.
- Broward Meals on Wheels Needs Volunteers
- Broward Meals on Wheels gets accredited
- Seniors living on less than $600/mo get a helping hand
- Broward Meals on Wheels gets $750k grant for senior health
- Chocolate extravaganza
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