Following in its yearly tradition, the Bella Vida Senior Center hosted its annual Thanksgiving Day meals giveaway on Thursday, distributing food to hundreds of seniors either by drive-thru or by taking a meal directly to the senior’s home.
Lined up outside of the parking lot, approximately 500 vehicles streamed through the winding line to receive their food, with each vehicle receiving two meals per person: one for Thursday and one for Friday.
“Today is one community coming together to show some love to the seniors who have been homebound for so long and that’s what makes it a little extra special,” said Kevin MacDonald, the executive director of the Senior Center. “So, you have a drive-thru going on today and we’ll serve about 500 meals, double that to 1,000, and our Meals on Wheels volunteers went out and delivered this morning, delivering out the 240 households and people who are homebound on Thanksgiving morning.”
In total approximately 1,800 meals, consisting of turkey, ham, rolls, vegetables, potatoes and/or pie were distributed on Thursday, according to MacDonald, and had been assembled by a smorgasbord of volunteers, particularly from the Castaic Lions Club.
In the years before COVID-19, Castaic Lions Club member Flo Lawrence, who died in the summer of last year, would coordinate with the Senior Center to provide seniors with not only a meal, but also with musical entertainment and an opportunity to socialize with one another during the holiday that they might not have had a chance to spend with family or loved ones.
In a similar tradition, despite the pandemic forcing stricter safety protocols for the event, a team of volunteers this year filled the Senior Center ballroom, forming a to-go meal assembly line.
“The most rewarding part is we’re giving meals to people who normally may not be able to lift up a turkey anymore, so they don’t get a turkey, they don’t get a ham, they don’t get the food,” said Lee Shapiro, president of the local Lions Club chapter. “And with us sending a second meal, that’s two meals that we were providing our community.”
When asked how they got dozens of volunteers to come out on their holiday to work, Shapiro said it was as simple as asking club members, Boy Scout troops, local churches, family members and more.
“We asked,” said Shapiro. “That’s the biggest thing, we asked people to volunteer and it’s a good feeling.”
“We’re just thankful that all these people here are safe,” said Chris Mohler, one of the people in line to get food. “And I was just thinking how wonderful these people are to donate their time and all of this for the community. For us, it’s a way to get out of the house and talk to people.”
When asked why he thinks people are coming out on their holiday to volunteer, MacDonald said that it was made worth it to them when you could see the reaction from the seniors.
“You can look in the car windows, the gratitude is amazing,” said MacDonald. “We serve a grateful population … and we got so much in return for what we’re able to share with them. Today is a meal, tomorrow it might be counseling, it might be a handy worker, it might be our classes.”
“But today we celebrate Thanksgiving, and we’re all giving thanks together,” MacDonald added.