Thanksgiving has been on Mark Adler’s mind since September. He had just a few months to secure the 350 volunteers needed for Meals on Wheels South Florida to tackle the time-honored holiday.
“Thanksgiving is a huge undertaking, but it’s super-fun, actually,” says Adler, the organization’s executive director. “There’s a lot going on that day.”
For 20 years, Meals on Wheels has cooked up and delivered hundreds of hot turkey dinners with all the fixings for homebound seniors spending the holiday alone. It’s quite the production: At 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, the volunteers line up outside the central kitchen in Pompano Beach and pick up four to six traditional meals—turkey, mashed potatoes, corn (typically on the cob), green beans, pumpkin pie and milk—that GA Food Services, a catering company based in Fort Lauderdale, begins preparing between 5 and 6 a.m. Meals on Wheels also donates bouquets, placemats made by a local sewing club, and cards hand-drawn by local students.
Volunteers then follow their given route sheet to senior centers and individual homes around Broward County and usually are finished by 11 a.m. People volunteer individually and within organizations. The Deerfield Beach Fire Department’s members opt to make a grand entrance by driving the fire truck to its delivery assignments. Adler says he has seen volunteering become a yearly family tradition.
“The seniors just love having the kids come along and spend a little time with them on Thanksgiving,” he says. “It’s a huge community-wide effort to get these meals out to everybody.”
In the end, about 600 meals will be delivered.
“It’s so terrific to go on Thanksgiving Day,” Adler says. “You just see [people] light up—they’re so appreciative that somebody’s thinking of them. A lot of them don’t have anybody here.”
How it Works
Meals on Wheels’ primary audience is still seniors. It serves about 10,000 people a year with 1.2 million meals. Hot meals are delivered daily to 33 senior dining sites throughout Broward County, and about 1,000 homebound seniors receive a frozen delivery once a week.
For the Kids
Four years ago, the organization started a summer program to serve children who rely on free and reduced-cost school lunches, for what might be their only filling meal of the day. Last summer, Meals on Wheels served about 11,000 kids in 70 locations. Its new mission statement reflects its growth: “To end hunger across all ages with kindness, dignity and compassion.”
Meals on Wheels South Florida, formerly known as Broward Meals on Wheels, is the senior nutrition provider in Broward County. It’s been around 34 years and recently rebranded in an effort to reach into Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties.
Throughout the year, Meals on Wheels has about 650 volunteers to deliver meals, serve food at the senior dining sites, and participate in Meals for Companion Pets (delivering dog and cat food to homebound seniors) and a grocery assistance program.
Make a Difference
To learn more about volunteering opportunities at Meals on Wheels South Florida, visit bmow.org.