As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, food delivery organizations are stuffing their turkeys and gearing up for one of their busiest days of the year; and Encore Community Services is no exception.
While Encore has a robust senior center that hosts a wide range of recreational and educational activities and services, their food security program is their magnum opus— as they have grown from a single community center in the basement of St. Malachy’s Church, according to their website, to an organization that delivers over 500,000 meals a year “up and down the West Side to frail and elderly homebound New Yorkers,” says Jeremy Kaplan, the Executive Director at Encore.
With all of the meals cooked in-house at the senior center, Encore runs their meal delivery service year-round, 7-days a week, with a variety of meal alternatives for the seniors— whose ages range from 60 to 100 years old—based on preference or food restrictions.
“It really is an all hands on deck community effort to get the meals out,” says Kaplan. “We have a team of meal delivery staff that deliver, rain or shine, blizzard or beautiful spring day, but our staffing resources are not enough.”
Due to the high demand for delivered meals, which has doubled as a result of the COVID-19 quarantine, the organization significantly relies on the generosity of volunteers—especially during the holiday seasons.
Although some might think of Thanksgiving as a holiday that revolves around sweet potato pie and turkey, it is also one that heavily evokes compassion and empathy in others, influencing them to consider giving back and doing something good for others.
For this reason, Kaplan believes, “it is super important that on Thanksgiving, and throughout the entire holiday season, that we really focus on making the holidays special for seniors, both at home and those that come.”
With all the resources that Encore provides— living accommodations for seniors who are formally homeless, affordable housing, as well as social service programs that aid in their financial wellness and health care navigation— it’s no surprise that the reactions from the seniors themselves and their family members are overwhelmingly positive.
From the simple “compliments to the chef”, to the more heartwarming, “This is life saving, this is essential, I don’t know what I would do without you,” says Kaplan.
Over the next week, Encore’s chefs and kitchen staff will be cooking hundreds of turkeys, according to Kaplan, and will be creating an “over the top special traditional thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.”
Starting Monday, Nov. 22 Encore will be delivering the palatable meals to the seniors, who will be happily surprised to see all the exquisite dishes the chefs prepared with a little extra sprinkle of holiday cheer.
Additionally, on Thanksgiving day, the Encore staff will be delivering about 400 hot meals to seniors in Midtown “who are more vulnerable,” according to Kaplan, and then returning to the senior center where the volunteers will open its doors and serve meals to 150 elderly New Yorkers.
When Kaplan first joined Encore and was told he would have to work on Thanksgiving, he was annoyed, to say the least. However, upon witnessing the incredible impact that Encore’s work has on these seniors, it quickly became something that he looked forward to all year long.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on Thanksgiving,” Kaplan says, “It really is one of the most special days of the year for Encore.”