More than 350 Thanksgiving meals delivered to elderly, homebound in Madison

Thanksgiving Meal Delivery
A volunteer takes meals prepared by LJ's Tavern and Grill to drivers for contactless delivery (Nov. 26, 2020)

MADISON, Wis. — Volunteers led by the Door Creek Church and NewBridge in Madison delivered about 367 meals cooked by LJ’s Sports Tavern and Grill to individuals around the community on Thanksgiving Day.

It’s not an easy day for the elderly and homebound in the community amid a pandemic that’s prevented many from seeing their families, and those were the individuals volunteers targeted with their meals.

Led by Pastor David Smith of Door Creek Church since 1992, the event has evolved through multiple partner organizations since he first started leading it in 1992. For most of that time, his wife Tracy has helped coordinate the event, with this year marking their 21st doing it together. NewBridge joined the partnership in 2017, and they were responsible for getting LJ’s on board this year to cook the meals in advance–an activity usually left to the volunteers.

“Usually we’ve got volunteers who are working Wednesday and Thursday–cooking, cutting, chopping, and preparing and getting ready for the meal,” Tracy Smith said. “So it’s been great to have that resource through NewBridge to bring LJ’s on board to do a contactless, safe delivery.”

About 60 drivers participated, delivering meals to more than 350 people around the community in a well-oiled operation that pre-assigned several deliveries to each driver with a seamless meal pickup at LJ’s Tavern.

“It’s a wonderful message to see that the community comes together, people volunteer their time, and they get to meet people,” Pastor David Smith said. “We have drivers that have been driving with us for 20 years. So their kids grew up, so now their kids are grown, and their kids come with them, and they deliver.”

For one retired UW-Health ICU nurse, the day marked her first with the event. Unable to travel to meet with family and wanting to help out, it seemed like the perfect safe opportunity.

I just needed to do something to help other people,” Diana Dineen said. “You gotta do something. And it’s limited as to what else we all can do, so you do what you can.”

She had four deliveries to make, and was glad the weather was nice for driving.

For us retired people that live alone, Covid isn’t a lot different,” she explained. “I don’t have family in the city. So you know, not much has changed, except now I can’t go anywhere. That’s the biggest thing–there’s nowhere to go.”

Making sure that others who don’t have anywhere to go still feel the community around them is why volunteers hit the streets today, David Smith said.

We want to make sure that people are not just sitting at home wishing and wondering if they’re gonna have a meal.”