Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, volunteers prepare Thanksgiving feast for referred seniors

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"Some people don't have the money or the resources to have Thanksgiving," said 17-year-old Nathaniel Duval. "What we're doing here helps them have that."

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A free Thanksgiving feast for senior citizens in Mahoning County has become an annual tradition for the sheriff’s office. The project continues to grow.

The hands you trust to catch criminals were putting together Thanksgiving meals Wednesday.

“Kind of with us, it’s like the Super Bowl of the senior services program,” Sheriff Jerry Greene said. “We’ll put a lot of the deputies together. A lot of reserve officers will come out, a lot of officers will schedule their time around to be able to deliver these meals to people.”

The project is an outreach of the Mahoning County Senior Services program.

“Some people don’t have the money or the resources to have Thanksgiving,” said 17-year-old Nathaniel Duval. “What we’re doing here helps them have that.”

The sheriff’s office gets referrals from various agencies, which tell them who could use a meal. Deputies volunteer to deliver the meals.

It’s a two-day job to cook 30 turkeys, six pans of green beans, stuffing and baked potatoes inside the Austintown Senior Center.

The meals are boxed, then more volunteers add the fixings, gravy, cranberries, pumpkin pie and rolls.

“Everybody coming together to put these nice meals together for people that are unable to get out,” Greene said. “They may not have family, they may not be able to afford something like this. It’s just nice to do for the community.”

The program started 13 years ago with just 70 meals. This year, 400 meals were put together and delivered.

“Every year, the number seems to increase but so does the number of volunteers, so it’s a wonderful event and we love doing it,” Greene said.

The deliveries are special, too. The meal that gets delivered also includes special items to brighten someone’s day.

“When they call me, they usually thank me for the little pictures that the kid put in that were drawn by middle school, grade school,” said Senior Services Coordinator Bob Schaeffer. “So they enjoy the little turkey hands.”

It’s a meal complete from top to bottom that takes many hands to put together — and they’re put in the right hands.

“Let me tell you, since I’ve been here, I’ve had several people come up to me and tell me they need a hug,” said cook Dolly Conn. “I’ll gladly give them a hug.”

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