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Volunteers Deliver Thanksgiving Meals to Seniors, Those in Need

  • Micaela Schones, 17, and her father, Tom Schones, of Grantham, were one of nearly 20 groups from Sacred Heart Church in Lebanon that spent Thanksgiving morning delivering turkey dinners to area residents. “Rather than have dinner with the four of us, we said, ‘Why don’t we help out at this place?’ Now this is what we do every Thanksgiving,” Tom Schones said. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Micaela Schones, 17, and her father, Tom Schones, of Grantham, were one of nearly 20 groups from Sacred Heart Church in Lebanon that spent Thanksgiving morning delivering turkey dinners to area residents. “Rather than have dinner with the four of us, we said, ‘Why don’t we help out at this place?’ Now this is what we do every Thanksgiving,” Tom Schones said. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Rev. William Kaliyadan, pastor at Sacred Heart Church, calls table numbers for the buffet line with the help of Caris Krenik (left), Brittany Schones and Micaela Schones yesterday. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    The Rev. William Kaliyadan, pastor at Sacred Heart Church, calls table numbers for the buffet line with the help of Caris Krenik (left), Brittany Schones and Micaela Schones yesterday. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Shannon Avery and Lyn Davies serve turkey and gravy to dinner guests. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Shannon Avery and Lyn Davies serve turkey and gravy to dinner guests. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Troy Keith, of West Lebanon, readies Thanksgiving dinners for delivery with a scoop of sweet potatoes. Members of the Sacred Heart Parish spent Thanksgiving morning preparing over 200 meals to deliver to area residents before a noon Thanksgiving dinner at the church.<br/> (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Troy Keith, of West Lebanon, readies Thanksgiving dinners for delivery with a scoop of sweet potatoes. Members of the Sacred Heart Parish spent Thanksgiving morning preparing over 200 meals to deliver to area residents before a noon Thanksgiving dinner at the church.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Micaela Schones, 17, and her father, Tom Schones, of Grantham, were one of nearly 20 groups from Sacred Heart Church in Lebanon that spent Thanksgiving morning delivering turkey dinners to area residents. “Rather than have dinner with the four of us, we said, ‘Why don’t we help out at this place?’ Now this is what we do every Thanksgiving,” Tom Schones said. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • The Rev. William Kaliyadan, pastor at Sacred Heart Church, calls table numbers for the buffet line with the help of Caris Krenik (left), Brittany Schones and Micaela Schones yesterday. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Shannon Avery and Lyn Davies serve turkey and gravy to dinner guests. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Troy Keith, of West Lebanon, readies Thanksgiving dinners for delivery with a scoop of sweet potatoes. Members of the Sacred Heart Parish spent Thanksgiving morning preparing over 200 meals to deliver to area residents before a noon Thanksgiving dinner at the church.<br/> (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

At the end of long table piled with aluminum containers of turkey, potatoes squash and stuffing, a snaking line of about three dozen people, each holding white Styrofoam to-go containers, formed in the basement of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church.

With assembly line efficiency, the group worked moved from mashed potatoes and on to the squash. At the end of the line, each person snatched a plastic container of gravy before snapping shut the to-go container and handing it to another volunteer, who would wrap it in a plastic bag, pair it with a brown paper bag full of bread and pie, and then stack the meal in a cardboard box.

Each year, members Sacred Heart parish provide Thanksgiving dinner in the church’s basement. This year, volunteers spent days gathering donations and preparing 112 pounds of stuffing, 20 gallons of gravy and 57 turkeys.

The well-orchestrated operation generates hundreds of to-go dinners that volunteers hand deliver to Upper Valley seniors who can’t make it to the church, and other residents who don’t have the means to fix a full meal.

This year, only 250 meals were delivered, down from the usual 400, said Len Angelli, who couldn’t pinpoint why fewer people asked for meals this time.

“We really want more people to call to be delivered to. We want to deliver to as many people as we can,” said Angelli, the main organizer of yesterday’s gathering.

Despite the lower number, the church basement was hopping at 9 a.m. yesterday as Angelli examined the containers and shouted out directions.

“That’s a little too much turkey in those, but fill it up with potatoes because we have lots of potatoes,” Angelli said. “We’ve got lots of stuffing as well. I don’t want to go overboard, but fill them with stuffing.”

Outside the church, traffic was minimal and the sidewalks were calm except for a few volunteers who carried boxes of food to their cars to be delivered. The aroma of turkey and mashed potatoes wafted into the parking lot, and a slab of butter was smashed on the sidewalk.

Within 25 minutes, the first delivery car headed for Quail Hollow Senior Living, where residents welcomed volunteers and showed off photos of their families.

Tom Schones and his 17-year-old daughter Micaela shoved two cardboard boxes into the trunk of their gray Honda Civic and examined their list of names and addresses. They decided to stop at the Lebanon Police Department first, where they dropped off six meals.

The Schones moved to Grantham about 10 years ago, and since they had no family nearby, they decided to volunteer at Sacred Heart, where they are parishioners.

For the past 10 years, they’ve spent Thanksgiving serving meals in the basement, but this was the first time they decided to venture out and deliver meals.

“Rather than have dinner with the four of us, we said why don’t we help out at this place,” Tom Schones said.

The next name on their list was a resident who lived in an apartment complex in West Lebanon. Her apartment number was 37. Tom Schones drove his car past forest green apartment buildings until he reached the number 32. But the numbers stopped there.

“Alright,” he said as he turned around. After asking for directions, knocking on one incorrect door and checking a map, the pair finally found the correct apartment. But when they knocked on the door, no one answered. And when they rang the door bell, no one answered.

There was a small brown table outside of the apartment with a note that said, “Please put packages on the table, not on the floor.”

Instead, Tom Schones knocked on her neighbor’s apartment.

Sue Holmes answered the door and said she would take the meal for her neighbor, who is 90 years old and lives by herself. If the Schones hadn’t showed up with a meal, Holmes said, she was going to share her meal with her neighbor.

Before leaving, Tom Schones asked Holmes if she would like an extra meal for herself because he had more in the car, but she said she already had her dinner planned.

“It’s a great thing. Awesome, awesome. Happy Thanksgiving to you guys,” Holmes said as she held her neighbor’s meal .

Some of the stops yesterday were quick hits, such as 83-year-old Peggy Ingersoll. When she answered the door and saw the Schones holding the wrapped meals, she said, “Aren’t you nice to do this.”

Ingersoll placed the bags on her walker, and within minutes, the Schones were headed back to their car.

“Oh, that’s so nice. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this,” Ingersoll said as she watched them walk away.

Other stops, like the one at Mike Balog’s home, were more of a visit rather than a quick hello and goodbye.

When the Schones reached the front door to Maple Manor in West Lebanon, they pressed the outdoor buzzer to Balog’s apartment and told Balog that they had a meal delivery.

“OK, I’ll press the button to let you in. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving,” Balog said cheerfully.

They walked inside and headed up a flight of stairs to their left, where Balog greeted them behind an orange door.

They stood outside Balog’s door for nearly 20 minutes as he told them stories of volunteering for The Prouty, flying airplanes and his love of photography. Balog, sporting a thin, gray mustache, told the Schones that he didn’t have any nearby family or grown kids.

As the Schones began to depart, Balog shook Tom’s hand and said, “I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving. Remember to count your blessings today.

“We always do, Mike,” Tom Schones said before departing.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.