Volunteer generosity and energy have been the pulse setting the tempo for every Thanksgiving Day serve at the Mission since 1944. For years, hundreds of families have taken time out of their holiday gatherings to help serve men, women and children in our community, and this year was no exception. In fact, this Thanksgiving will be remembered as one of the most spirited ever given the countless obstacles that had to be overcome to ensure its success.

For more than 15 years, the Mission has been partnering with the United Way’s Meals on Wheels program which doesn’t run deliveries on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. Though not a United Way affiliate, the Mission has provided food and delivery to these recipients through volunteer efforts during the holidays. This year, however, concerns arose about how this would be carried out with the prevailing health crisis.

The pandemic has strengthened its grip on the country and driven the holiday season into a corral of unfortunate melancholy and uncertainty. As Thanksgiving approached, the Mission staff faced a serious challenge – how to ensure hundreds of seniors and shut-ins received a hot holiday meal while keeping the much-needed volunteers safe.

“We think about how important our clients are to us,” said Mission executive director Michael Coleman. “As they progress through our program, they become family and we wouldn’t want them to be without a home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving. We also thought about all the people who rely on us outside our three facilities and it wouldn’t feel right to not help them if there was a way to do so safely.”

The Mission staff restructured the preparation and pickup process this year to ensure maximum safety for visitors, clients and staff. Normally, guests would gather in the campus chapel to learn more about the organization and its ongoing partnership with Meals on Wheels. This year, the focus was on health and efficiency.

All volunteers working to prepare the meals for delivery had their temperature taken upon arrival, were required to wear face masks and were separated into four different stations. Guests conducting home food deliveries were greeted outside and followed social distancing and face-coverings guidelines. On average, volunteers were through the meal pickup line and back to their vehicles in under 10 minutes.

In all, volunteers boxed more than 350 meals complete with turkey, dressing, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, pie and more. Just over 300 of these were then delivered to Meals on Wheels recipients while 50 others were taken to the UAB COVID-19 unit to provide the doctors and nurses with a well-deserved meal.

This Thanksgiving stands as a beacon of hope and generosity in an otherwise stressful and chaotic year. People coming together to better the lives of one another is the greatest blessing of all. And to everyone who contributed their time and finances to making this holiday amazing for our clients, the seniors and shut-ins in the community, and the medical staff battling the pandemic first hand – thank you. You are a far bigger blessing than you know.

Form the Mission Family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!