Help for the holidays: Youth volunteers step up for Thanksgiving luncheon for seniors

JACK FIRNENO / TIMES PHOTO

JACK FIRNENO / TIMES PHOTO

Thanksgiving came early at the Bristol Township Senior Center.

On Election Day, hundreds of seniors came out for the center’s annual Thanksgiving luncheon. A yearly tradition for over a decade, and one that brings together people young and old over five full turkeys and enough stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and cranberries to match.

The food came courtesy of a local ShopRite, but was cooked thanks mostly to teenagers involved with the county’s Youth Service Agency.

The teenagers are not exactly volunteers — they’re first-time offenders ordered to do community service.

Even so, both the kids cooking, taking orders and serving food and the people they were helping walked away with a positive experience.

“Everyone that comes in, they’re respectful, they’re really remorseful for their crime and they really respond well to the community service. A lot of people have the impression that they’re bad kids, but we have kids that are great, they just did something stupid and got caught,” said YSA coordinator Dan Perel.

“The appreciation that the seniors show to the juveniles, I think they really respond well to it. They’re always asking to be with the seniors. It’s amazing just to see the interaction between the two generations.”

One 17-year-old volunteer, who asked not to be named, has worked here before. This, however, was his first time working with the visitors.

“The people here are nice and they’ll work with you,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve had interactions with the seniors, and they’re all very nice. I think it’s a great event, and good for the seniors.”

That sentiment is echoed by Senior Center Manager Bonnie Worth. The kids are “phenomenal and very attentive,” she said, and the event “a great opportunity to bring different generations together.”

As special as it is, it’s only one event in a flurry of activity around this time of year.

The center held its Salute to Veterans event the Friday before this. The event drew younger vets in larger numbers than in previous years, Worth noted.

Meanwhile, ongoing efforts include a community garden and food drives that benefit older people, especially this time of year.

During the Thanksgiving dinner, the center also gave away fresh fruits and vegetables, bread and frozen meats donated by the Bucks County Opportunity Council, local grocery stores and local residents.

And, that’s all in advance of Giving Tuesday, which falls on Nov. 29 this year.

“It’s after Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, and kicks off the giving season,” said Worth. “We’ll have a lot planned.”

For information on the Bristol Township Senior Center, call 215.785.6322 or visit theyounginheart.com.

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