The holiday season is in full swing and for many people it marks the time of year to help the sick and less fortunate.
In Worcester, one organization is helping individuals with chronic illnesses and their families get the food and nutrition they need all year round.
Last month alone, Community Servings delivered more than 5,000 meals throughout Worcester to 55 residents and their 31 dependents and caregivers.
The recipients of these meals suffer from HIV/AIDS, cancer, renal illness, diabetes, and a wide range of other severe ailments and illnesses. all of which keep them bound to their homes.
“As we analyzed the data it was clear that there was a critical need for meal delivery services for those battling illness in Worcester,” said Community Servings CEO David Waters, following the organization’s arrival in Worcester in 2012.
“The last thing individuals who are sick want to worry about is how they are going to feed themselves and their families, and our meals program is designed to provide hope and comfort during this critical time. We want to let residents, social services agencies and medical providers know that we are here and ready to help.”
As it continues to grow in Worcester, Community Servings has found that individuals, businesses and other organizations are more than willing to do their part to make sure homebound residents get the meals they need.
“The [Worcester] community in general has been really responsive,” said Tim Leahy, vice president of development and communications. “There are foundations in that area, such as the [Greater] Worcester Community Foundation, that when we wrote to them to say we were delivering meals there, they started granting money to us to support the program right away.”
For Thanksgiving, Community Servings delivered 86 traditional dinners to its Worcester clients, in addition to the regularly scheduled meals for the week.
“It’s quite a feast. What differentiates our meals from other[s] is that everything is made from scratch,” Leahy said. “We aren’t opening cans, we aren’t serving highly processed foods. We make everything in-house. From the soup stock all the way to the completed meal.”
The holiday dinners included roasted turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, butternut squash soup, green bean casserole, biscuits, pies and fruit.
“When we expanded to Worcester, we asked the Worcester community ‘could you also get involved?’ We have people that are selling pies there, we have bakers, and pickup locations.” — Tim Leahy, Community Servings vice president of development and communications
Before every Thanksgiving, Community Servings holds a pie sale called “Pie in the Sky”. Bakeries, caterers and restaurants across the state are asked to bake pies to sell through the nonprofit’s website and 600-person sales force.
This year, Community Servings celebrated its 23rd annual pie sale and raised nearly $750,000 for its food and nutrition program.
The pies are pre-ordered and customers pick them up the day before Thanksgiving. There are 120 different pickup locations in the state, including two in Worcester — ScrubaDub on Shrewsbury Street and Coldwell Banker on Park Avenue — and Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough.
“When we expanded to Worcester, we asked the Worcester community ‘could you also get involved?’ We have people that are selling pies there, we have bakers, and pickup locations,” Leahy said. “It’s smaller there [Worcester], but it takes a while for people to hear about us and get the word out.”
Five Worcester bakeries take part in baking pies for the sale, including the famous Mrs. Mack’s Bakery on Grafton Street.
“We’ve been in business for 86 years, and we’ve been doing this for a few years now. We bake roughly 75 pies. We’re a small place, so we do about 12 pies at a time,” said Eileen McAvey of Mrs. Mack’s.
Other area businesses that baked and donated pies combined for nearly 200 pies and include the Publick House of Sturbridge, Tavolino restaurant of Westborough, The Haven Country Club of Boylston, Brookfield Orchard in North Brookfield, Southborough’s Tomasso Trattoria, and Yummy Mummy of Westborough.
Across the commonwealth, 1,600 homebound individuals in 18 cities and towns with a combined 17 different medically tailored diets receive two meals per day. In one year, Community Servings provides nearly 500,000 meals.
In addition to Worcester — which makes up four percent of Community Servings’ clients — meals are delivered to Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Lowell, Fitchburg, Leominster and other areas in the North Shore and South Shore.
According to Leahy, Community Servings delivers 16 meals to seven clients and their caregivers per day between Fitchburg and Leominster, putting the daily meal total in Worcester County at more than 100.
Like Thanksgiving, Community Servings expects to deliver an additional 86 meals [that organization calls Holiday Meals] in Worcester on Christmas Eve for Christmas dinner.
Community Servings also has a holiday basket program where the clients are asked what they want or need for the holidays. A wish list is created and Community Servings finds a volunteer to fulfill the list. All of the lists have been filled and now volunteers are working to create baskets for the gifts.
According to Leahy, right now volunteers from Worcester are asked to go to Boston to pick up the baskets to deliver them in Worcester. However, they are hoping that this year they can have the baskets delivered to Worcester so that volunteers can avoid spending two hours in the car.
Volunteers are needed to help deliver these meals not only in Worcester, but throughout the state, especially in the Boston area. There are currently 60 openings for Holiday Meal delivery drivers in the Boston area.
If anyone is interested in volunteering, call Kate White at 617-522-7777 Ext. 228 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a list of ways of helping Community Servings during the holiday season, click here.