Volunteers power Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels deliveries

Socially distanced volunteers lined up in the rain to help Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services with Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels deliveries on Nov. 24. The 69 volunteers delivered roughly 550 meals.

Nearly 70 volunteers braved a rainy November morning to help Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) make Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels deliveries on Nov. 24.

SCES delivers a Thanksgiving meal—with turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables and pumpkin pie–to local older adults who want one each year. The program usually gets around 320 requests—but this year there were almost 550, said SCES Nutrition Director Meghan Ostrander.

“I think there’s a real need right now, and it probably has a lot to do with people staying home this Thanksgiving, instead of visiting family,” said Ostrander.

Thanksgiving is a day off for SCES Meals on Wheels drivers, who have been active as essential workers throughout the pandemic. SCES Volunteer Coordinator Lindsey Sm

ilack said the volunteers make it possible to give the regular drivers the day off.

Longtime SCES volunteers Brett Graham and Jennifer Helfer were among the 69 volunteers who helped Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services deliver Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels on Nov. 24. Most drivers made about 10 deliveries, but Brett and Jennifer picked up the slack for a couple of drivers who couldn’t make it, and made 33 deliveries that morning.

“It means a lot to us that volunteers want to help in a hands-on way and support older adults in their community, especially in this uncommonly challenging year,” said Smilack. “I am well aware that many of our volunteers are experiencing hardships of their own, so it is touching that people are motivated to help others.”

Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels is the agency’s most popular volunteer event. There were some changes this year due to COVID, most notably adopting contactless delivery and requiring volunteers to fill out a COVID screening form.

SCES staffers reached out to older adults in recent weeks, to ask if they wanted a Thanksgiving meal. SCES Director of Quality Improvement and Compliance Rachel Berry said the uptick in interest was noticeable.

Volunteers also helped pack more than 500 meals for the drivers on Thanksgiving.

“I was surprised how many people wanted the meals, and seemed relieved and delighted that they would be getting a turkey dinner after all,” said Berry. “Folks were very grateful.”

Home Care Administrative Assistant Ellen Provencher made 113 calls in that effort, and said it led to a lot of nice conversations.

“Many of the people I called were very thankful for the offer,” said Provencher. “Many told me about their plans for the holiday, and that was nice.”


Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is a not-for-profit that supports independence and well-being of older adults in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information about nutrition programs or volunteering, or for free and advice and guidance on questions of aging, caregiving, or disability, contact our Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 or email info@eldercare.org.