When Thanksgiving comes around, some not only prepare foods for their own family but also join forces to help ensure those in need also have a Thanksgiving dinner.
Local organization Thanks to Give packages pre-cooked Thanksgiving meals, including a turkey and fixings, and delivers to seniors and disabled people.
“I feel many of the recipients of this project, especially the elderly, are often overlooked,” said program coordinator Nancy Zeno-Hamilton. “So I hope with this small gesture of a holiday meal they will know their community cares about them.”
The organization accepts donations and purchases discounted food and flowers to be taken back to the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building and packaged. The food is collected from SPD Market in Nevada City and the flowers from Foothill Flowers. The volunteers package the food and bouquet the flowers before drivers take the items to houses and apartments.
The program began 13 years ago when Zeno-Hamilton wanted to help feed people while staying close to home, after having volunteered with other out-of-town organizations.
“I spent much of my career working with seniors and disabled adults, a population that is very special to me,” Zeno-Hamilton said. “I collaborated with the former senior center, which is now Gold Country Community Center, and they sent out flyers.”
In order to raise awareness for this event, flyers are distributed around local senior centers and apartments, and any elderly or disabled person who signs up gets a meal.
“Our drivers deliver to anyone who wants to sign up for meals, from senior apartments to individual homes all over the county from south county all the way to Lake of the Pines to Penn Valley to North San Juan,” Zeno-Hamilton said.
Dorris Dunlop volunteered with Thanks to Give until she had a stroke in 2004. She is now on the receiving end of the generosity of others, being provided a Thanksgiving meal through the program.
“They’re absolutely wonderful,” Dunlop said. “They’re delicious and very reasonable. Everybody associated with the program has been so super kind. I can’t say enough nice things about them.”
Dunlop said the program allows people to have a Thanksgiving who would otherwise not be able to prepare the meal.
“Some people would not have a Thanksgiving dinner if not for Thanks to Give, and they’re not charging,” Dunlop said. “I give a donation, but you certainly don’t have to. It’s lovingly given.”
Zeno-Hamilton said making the time to volunteer and follow through with personal Thanksgiving plans is doable because the preparation begins at 7:30 a.m., and the drivers complete their routes around 1 p.m.
“I have people who say ‘I just put my turkey in the oven, go out and deliver’ and then go and have Thanksgiving with their families,” Zeno-Hamilton said.
After leading Thanks to Give for 13 years, Zeno-Hamilton said she would love to pass the baton to someone with a heart for the organization’s type of work.
“I don’t want to see this go away,” Zeno-Hamilton said. “I’m approaching 65, and I would like to pass this onto someone who is younger, maybe more energetic, organized and has a heart for this kind of work.”
She said the process is already set up with returning volunteers, and some money is already situated for next year.
“The infrastructure is there and set up and because of generous donations I’ve gotten this year, some of the money is there for next year,” she said. “I have volunteers who have returned every year, love it, and their kids have grown up doing it. I have a good volunteer base, which is wonderful.”
Sandie Acevedo and her family have been among the volunteers for 11 years, after her children said they wanted to help the community.
“When my kids were much younger, they wanted to do something to help out rather than just have our dinner, so I investigated it, and this was the best one I could imagine,” Acevedo said. “They are very organized and so helpful.”
Even after Acevedo’s own son became disabled, losing an arm, the family still found ways to help out, first driving and now packaging the meals.
“It’s a really great thing. I just really want to promote it. It’s such a good program,” Acevedo said.
“It’s not like we need more volunteers, but it’s so beneficial to the community, and I want to give praise to Nancy and (her husband) Frances for the wonderful job they’ve done unselfishly for the last years they’ve been doing it.”
Zeno-Hamilton said Thanks to Give offers a way to connect the community.
“I enjoy seeing the community come together for this,” she said. “It is very rewarding for all who participate, recipients and volunteers alike.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.
“I spent much of my career working with seniors and disabled adults, a population that is very special to me.”
— Nancy Zeno-Hamilton,