Sometimes the smallest things can make a difference in someone’s life: a card, a gift, a meal, a telephone call.
That’s the insight Courtney van den Boogaard gained when the Cloverdale Community Kitchen (CCK) launched its outreach to seniors program earlier in December.
“We adopted two low-income seniors’ buildings in Cloverdale,” said van den Boogaard, director of communications for the CCK.
She said they decided to start an adopt-a-senior Christmas hamper program, in conjunction with the store “The Heart”, for the occupants of the two buildings. The idea being each senior would receive a hamper full of non-perishable food and a personalized gift.
Annie Christiaens, owner of The Heart, made little tags with the seniors’ fist names and the specific gift each senior wanted and hung the tags on a Christmas tree in her store.
“Customers would choose a tag, then buy and wrap a gift for that senior.”
They then brought the gifts back to the The Heart and volunteers from the Kitchen will deliver them with the seniors’ Christmas hampers.
In the course of her calls to the seniors—to touch base about delivering the hampers and to inquire about what type of gift each senior wanted for Christmas—van den Boogaard found out many relied on the Kitchen’s Christmas dinner for not only their only holiday meal, but also their only holiday fellowship.
“A lot of the seniors have been isolated and they haven’t had any other contact with people.”
That when she had a eureka moment. If the seniors were going to be missing out on Christmas dinner, why not deliver the dinner to them?
The CCK has already decided to convert their sit-down Christmas dinner into a take-out dinner, so it wasn’t that much of stretch for van den Boogaard to add some take-out meals to the delivery items for seniors.
“They were excited just to be able to connect on the phone,” she said. “And they’re very excited that they’re going to have dinner delivered to them.”
A lot of heartwarming stories arose from the conversations van den Boogaard had with the seniors.
“We were calling to see what they would like for Christmas,” she explained. “A lot of the seniors would say, ‘Dear, I just want everyone to be happy.’ Or they’d say, ‘I miss hugs.’ That’s all they would say they wanted for Christmas. So the calls were really emotional.”
Other requests were small: a frying pan, socks, some guitar strings.
“Many of the requests touched our hearts. I am really glad we adopted those buildings and that we were able to do the adopt-a-senior program,” noted van den Boogaard. “They’re really happy they’re going to get a Christmas dinner brought to their door. Many don’t have the means to make it themselves, or to cook for one, so this dinner will make a big difference.”
Despite COVID-19, the Cloverdale Community Kitchen will again serve their big Christmas dinner to needy families.
“We alway do a big, sit-down Christmas dinner here. We serve about 300 people,” said Matthew Campbell, director for the Kitchen. “But this year we can’t do that, so we’re going to package it all and hand it out.”
Campbell and crew will host their take-out dinner at the Community Kitchen on Dec. 23 at 6 p.m.
“Everyone has to pre-register and then they’ll be able to pick up a full-on turkey Christmas dinner in take-out containers for their family,” said Campbell. “All of our hamper recipients will get that. Our food bank recipients will be able to sign up for that. And we’ll be delivering meals directly to the seniors in our outreach program.”
Campbell said they’ll serve about 500 Christmas dinners this year. That will include drive-thru take-out, in-person take-out for those without vehicles, and the meals for seniors.