About 300 senior citizens in Salem will get a free turkey dinner and a card wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving on Thursday, thanks to the efforts of the Friends of the Salem Council on Aging.
The nonprofit group raises money to buy the turkey dinners, and volunteers deliver them. This year, the number of seniors seeking a holiday meal has increased, compared to more than 250 distributed last year, an organizer said.
With rising costs, and many seniors struggling with health issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to provide more holiday meals has grown, said Rosanna Donahue, activities coordinator for the Salem Council on Aging.
“We are getting calls from social workers from other towns referring Salem seniors they are working with,” Donahue said in a phone interview.
The volunteer friends group purchases the dinners from Brothers Taverna, a Salem restaurant. In total, the meals this year are expected to cost $3,500 to $4,000, she said.
The friends group raises money year round, such as through a summer luau, and community donations, to support Salem seniors, many of whom face food insecurity year-round.
On Thanksgiving morning, dozens of volunteers, including Salem police officers, will deliver the meals to homebound seniors.
The meals consist of “everything that is included in a regular Thanksgiving dinner,” Donahue said.
Along with turkey, potatoes, stuffing and other festive fixings, the holiday dinners will also come with handmade Thanksgiving Day cards.
The cards were made with the help of Salem school children, Girl Scouts, and nursing students at Salem State University, among others.
For some, the volunteer will be the only person they will see on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s sad to see it,” Donahue said. “But that’s the reality of [what] we encounter with our Salem seniors.”
Adam Sennott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.