Nevada Parks and Rec Department to continue 20-year Thanksgiving meal tradition
It will be different from the past, but Nevada Parks and Recreation Department staff say the community's retired population has responded well to this year's "pick it up" or "have it delivered" Thanksgiving Senior Meal scheduled for Tuesday.
"We're well over 100 people who have called in," said Rhonda Maier, assistant director of Nevada Parks and Rec. "They're very thankful," she added, about the department's decision to go forward with the annual tradition of serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal to older residents right before the holiday.
This will be the 20th serving of the meal, which came to Nevada by way of Webster City, where Maier had previously worked with the parks and recreation department.
"When I worked for Webster City there was a potluck that was held at the rec center for Thanksgiving," she said. "It was a nice event and I thought maybe it would be nice to do something like that here, only with a prepared meal."
The first year it was offered in Nevada, she recalled, 12 people showed up. In recent years, the meal has brought in around 120 people, who usually eat at Gates Hall, where Maier, parks and rec employee Erin Mousel and other helpers have cooked and prepared it.
Maier and Parks and Recreation Director Tim Hansen said they had to really think about how they would continue the tradition this year during a pandemic.
"We all absolutely love this event, and it isn't something we wanted to go away," Maier said. "But, we didn't want to put anyone in an unsafe situation. So, we thought about it, and it took us a while to be like, 'OK, we can do this.'"
Maier said more than half of the participants are picking their meal up at the Gates Hall back door. Staff asks that those picking up enter the school parking lot from 15th Street and drive around the Gates Hall building to the southeast back door to retrieve their food containers between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Deliveries to those requesting them will be made between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
A Walmart Foundation grant for $1,200 helped staff to offer the meal for free this year without a donation, Maier said. But staff won't turn away donations if people still want to give them.
That money will be used to help feed families in the community, she said.
Key donors like Fareway, Fareway's Pat Prusha, and Memorial Lutheran Church in Nevada help in the effort. Other churches in the community have helped donate canned goods for the meal each year.
In addition to the Walmart Foundation grant, there has been approximately $1,200 in other monetary donations this year, which will be repurposed for a Christmas offering.
"We are able, with the additional dollars, to provide a Christmas meal bag for families in need this year," Maier said. "So if people still want to give a donation for their Thanksgiving meal, we will add their donations to our preparation of Christmas meal bags, which will go out to families who are also part of the Angel Tree program."
As the parks and recreation department has taken calls from people wanting to be part of the annual meal, they've heard many "thank-yous."
Because of the advisories to not hold big Thanksgiving gatherings this year, Maier believes the Thanksgiving Senior Meal might be the only Thanksgiving meal some Nevada senior residents have this year.
"I'm so thankful we could figure out a way to make it happen," she said.