Home Moorestown News ‘About connections’: Samaritan gives away holiday meals

‘About connections’: Samaritan gives away holiday meals

Christine Harkinson/The Sun
Samaritan’s 23rd annual meal delivery last month included gift bags for its families.

Samaritan held its 23rd annual Thanksgiving meal delivery last month.

Called Giving Thanks, Preserving Memories, the effort resulted in the nonprofit preparing 560 Thanksgiving meals for delivery to 140 Samaritan families in the area, including those at Samaritan’s two inpatient hospice centers in Voorhees and Mount Holly.

Fifty volunteers participated, with food deliveries to Samaritan’s service areas in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer counties.

Giving Thanks, Preserving Memories began in 2001 as an idea from Samaritan’s SamariTeens group of teen volunteers to give caregivers a break during the Thanksgiving holiday.

“While it’s definitely helpful to patients who may have some financial insecurity, it’s really to just help families be able to relax and be together and not worry about the stress of cooking for Thanksgiving,” said Lisa DiCerto, Samaritan volunteer coordinator.

“For many of these people, this is going to be their last Thanksgiving together, and so we want to make sure that they can just hang out and be families and they will still have a full, Thanksgiving meal.”

The effort started with 50 meals in 2001, all prepared by the DoubleTree by Hilton in Cherry Hill and delivered in carefully packed gift bags that included turkey dinners, pies, cider and table runners or placemats. Craft table decorations were created by the SamariTeens (Samaritan’s teen volunteer group), local Brownie and school groups, community volunteers and others.

Christine Harkinson/The Sun
Fifty Samaritan volunteers participated in the delivery of more than 500 Thanksgiving meals.

“Everything we do speaks, so this is speaking very loud and clear that we value our patients,” DiCerto noted. “We want them to feel part of our family and we want them to really enjoy the holiday time, the time together. And we really want to work on making connections.

“We really make sure we go above and beyond and this is also very symbolic of how we want to connect,” she added. “We connect with our patients, we connect with our staff, we connect with our teens … So it’s very much about connection.”

The event itself was a lot of work, but it left DiCerto feeling energized and wonderful.

“How can you not feel energized and wonderful when you see so many people coming together to do something good to support people,” she asked, “and people who are in a really difficult, challenging situation?

“It makes you just feel awesome.”

Bella Cao, a senior at Lenape High School, started volunteering for Samaritan when she was in eighth grade. Since helping with the meal delivery, she’s grateful for the experience.

“I don’t share the same experience as they (Samaritan’s patients, caregivers and families) do and I really value family time, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year, and I think it’s great that I just get to be a part of giving that same memorable experience to a family,” she said.

“ … I think it’s just a really cool thing.”

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