Council on Aging ready to serve 1,000 Thanksgiving meals to residents in need

Osceola County’s largest Thanksgiving meal is happening today at the Osceola Council on Aging.

Between 800 and 1,000 people are expected to attend, with at least another 200 volunteers signed up to serve up the Thanksgiving lunch. Even more volunteers will deliver special holiday meals to hundreds of low-income seniors for the Meals on Wheels program.

Last year was the first time in decades that the Council on Aging didn’t serve Thanksgiving. Instead, it was “Turkey Take-out” for families and individuals in need.

The culprit was flooding, which damaged much of the council’s large facility, where hundreds of seniors meet and eat daily. The building is also where holiday meals have been served since the Council on Aging, the largest nonprofit social service agency in the county, opened in 1971.

But this year, “we’re back in business on Thanksgiving,” said Cathy Arft, the council’s dietary director.

Arft, a longtime employee at the council, has not missed a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner there in 33 years. She started volunteering at the council as a teenager in 1986 and later became an employee.

“Why would I? This is what the holidays are supposed to be about,” said Arft, who even brought her 2-week-old son with her one year.

“You have to teach the next generation to take care of people,” said the mother of three. “When my kids were little they would ask me if we were rich. And I’d tell them we’re rich in love, both in terms of giving and receiving.”

Many Osceola residents have made volunteering at the council during the holidays a tradition.

“Everyone has the ability to give a little back. And you don’t have to serve holiday meals. You don’t have to spend an entire day volunteering. You can just give a little bit of your time and it can make all the difference to someone,” Arft said.

Want to help others during the holiday season? The following organizations serve folks who are struggling during the holidays. Get in touch if you’d like to help.

• Osceola County Council on Aging: 407-846-8532

• A Place for Grace: 407-593-2969

• The Center of Open Hands/CC Casa del Alfarero: 407-536-9180, 407-962-7041

• Solid Rock Community Church: 407-847-3500

• The Dwelling Place Church (TDP): www.tdp churchfl.com

• Celebration Community Church: 407-494-4644 or info@44life.com

• Christian’s Heart of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church: 407-847-2500