Thanksgiving feast brings seniors, students together

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November 22nd, 2011

Omaha, NE – Celebrating Thanksgiving is all about food and fellowship with family and friends. But what happens when family members are few and monthly incomes are fixed? The University of Nebraska Omaha’s Service Learning and Gerontology departments teamed up with high school students last week to prepare a special meal for a group of senior citizens.

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Seniors eatting a Thanksgiving meal at the Adams Community Center. (Photo by Angel Martin)

About 30 senior citizens filled a room at the Adams Park Community Center in North Omaha for an early Thanksgiving meal. Elder Frank Likely blessed the feast, which included green beans, potatoes, rolls and ham. 17-year old Alicia Johnson served desserts, and, along with a handful of other students from Omaha Blackburn Alternative High School, helped prepare the meal.

“We’ve been cooking for three days preparing this beautiful meal for them,” Johnson said.

Throughout the school year, the students prepare meals each week for the seniors at Adams Center. Kerry Turner is the president of the senior group. He said it’s a great program for the teens and his fellow senior citizens.

Alicia Johnson serving desserts. (Photo by Angel Martin)

“They show the love and enjoy fellowshipping with the senior citizens,” Turner said. “A lot of times, when we get old, a lot of the young people seem like they just pass the old people by, but (these) young people seem like they love coming up, and we love having them up here, because we love to fellowship with the young people.”

Thelma Whitfield is a senior at the center. She said she always compliments the kids on their skills and uniforms. “The meals are wonderful and I always tell them (that),” she said.

Whitfield said good cooking is all about the seasoning, and after that meal, some of the seniors will need to take advantage of the gym at the center. “Of course you’re going to need to walk because you’ll be then ate too much,” she laughed.

There are a number of programs throughout Omaha and the state aimed at making sure people in the area get a Thanksgiving meal this year.

Thelma Whitfield sharing cooking tips. (Photo by Angel Martin)

For those at Adams Center, some can’t get to their families, or don’t have family to go to. This project not only helps the seniors get a meal, but also teaches teens the importance of an essential life skill: cooking.

“So many (teenagers) don’t know how to cook because their parents didn’t teach them how to cook,” Whitfield said. “All my children know how to cook.”

The program also gives students like Johnson the opportunity to connect with an older generation.

“When I first got here my challenge was to sit by people that I didn’t know,” Johnson said. “I was kind of afraid because I’m not a talkative person. But, then it started getting easier and I started talking to them, and I was watching them play dominoes, and I’ve got used to them, and they are very sweet.”

With Thanksgiving just days away, programs like the Open Door Mission have been collecting food for their “Turkey n’ Fixin’s” food boxes. The Rolling Hills Ranch Retirement Center in West Omaha and Bellevue Christian Center will open their doors to people in need of a free meal. The Mount Moriah Baptist Church in North Omaha will even deliver dinners.

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