As the holiday season approaches, most Geauga residents are busy planning to gather with family and friends to share a day of good food and companionship.
But for others, it can be a day spent alone with no family or holiday spread on their tables.
The Geauga County Department on Aging is working to make those holidays a little brighter and a little less lonely for senior citizens.
Jessica Boalt, department director, said her agency has been giving its time and, with the support of the community, the money needed to take that holiday cheer to Geauga County seniors.
For years, the department has been bringing home-delivered holiday meals to Geauga County seniors. The department offers a free traditional holiday meal, including pie, to any Geauga senior, age 60 and older, who will be home alone on Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, and Christmas Day, Dec. 25.
This year, the department is asking that those seniors who wish to take part in the free offer are asked to call the department on aging by Nov. 15 for a Thanksgiving Day dinner or by Dec. 13 for a Christmas Day dinner. Seniors are asked to call 440-279-2130.
Mrs. Boalt said the department can often see those who are living alone when meals are regularly dropped off through the Meals on Wheels program throughout the year. She said some Geauga seniors have no family living in Ohio.
This year, she said, it is anticipated that 75 to 100 meals will be served on each of the two holidays.
The program is funded through donations, Mrs. Boalt said, at a total cost of about $1,200. Often, members of the business community come through with donations that cover the cost. Individuals also have kept the meals going out to seniors, she said.
The meals are prepared by local caterers or restaurants. This year, the Bob Evans restaurant in Chardon is preparing the Thanksgiving meal for seniors, she said.
“It happens because of the generosity of the community,” she said. “We’re very fortunate when someone needs a meal that we’re able to accommodate.”
As of this year, the department has been able to serve anyone who has asked. “It’s been very successful with no waiting list,” she said.
School children have taken time to decorate the packages the food is delivered in, and local businesses have generally come through with other donations, such as candy, for Geauga senior citizens.
Staff at the Department on Aging make it a part of their holidays, she said.
Staff serve as volunteers, working in the kitchens to get the meals ready for transport to the homes. A team of 75 drivers is needed to deliver the meals.
“We’re very thankful for the staff,” Mrs. Boalt said. “They could be at home getting ready for their own families. Often, she said, they will bring their families along to help in the effort.
Some of the families have even taken the time to share the meal with the senior, although not all seniors are willing or want to have the time spent with others and ask to be just given the time alone.
She said the any member of the community wishing to give back can participate and join in helping with the program.
For many Geauga seniors, the programs are a reason to give thanks on a day they would normally spend alone.
“There’s a lot of thankfulness and gratitude that happens with this program,” Mrs. Boalt said.
A second program is also about to get under way that provides meals year-round for seniors.
The department’s “Season of Giving,” now in its third year, allows tax-deductible donations to provide meals. In 2017, the department delivered 50,412 meals to 497 seniors, utilizing 278 drivers, who covered 111,709 miles.
The community is being called on once again to ensure that no Geauga senior has to worry about where their next meal will come from.
To provide one meal, the cost is $4.50. A whole week of meals can be donated for $22.50. A month of meals costs $97.50 and a year of meals is $1,170.
Registrations to assist in this program can be obtained through the Department on Aging, 12555 Ravenwood Drive, Chardon, Ohio 44024.