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Twenty-four years ago, VISTE (Volunteers in Service to the Elderly) leadership saw a need within its client base and reached out to volunteers to help meet that need. Thanks to the kindness of those volunteers, 100 VISTE clients received a hot Thanksgiving meal that year. This year, VISTE will deliver 1,800 Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings, plus a live plant and hand-decorated items to elderly clients the day before Thanksgiving – Wednesday, November 25th.

“The Thanksgiving Meal delivery brings together the community, including volunteers and VISTE clients, in a special way. It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season,” said Julie McDonald, Volunteer and Events Manager.

VISTE’s mission is to enable the frail elderly to remain safely and independently in their own homes. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1983, provides a range of services for at-risk seniors, free of charge, thanks to a large volunteer base and the generosity of the community.

The Thanksgiving Meal Delivery will take place on Wednesday, November 25th, with volunteers assembling for a no-contact, drive-through meal pickup for clients at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. Thanks to an outpouring of support from volunteers, many of whom have participated in the event for years, VISTE has a sufficient number of volunteers to assist with the meal delivery at this time.

Some longtime volunteers, like Bonnie Paternoster and her husband Barry, have participated for many years. Even though they now live in Bradenton, they wouldn’t miss the event and drive back each year to help out. Volunteers often bring their children or grandchildren to help.

“Volunteers have told us that they love helping local seniors this way – they enjoy helping as much as the seniors enjoy receiving the meals!” McDonald said. “This event takes over 1,000 volunteers throughout the community; it truly is an amazing experience for all.”

Support for the event is provided by contributions from individuals, community groups, local businesses, churches, and in-kind donations, as well as sponsorships by GEICO and Campbell Soup Foundation. The George Jenkins Foundation also provided support for the event. Although individuals and local organizations have participated in the event for many years, this is the first year that VISTE has had sponsors for the event.

VISTE President Steve Bissonnette said, “We are so grateful for everyone who helps make this event possible. We couldn’t do this each year without significant financial and volunteer support from the community. The event impacts the lives of 1,800 local seniors in a major, positive way. Many of our clients live alone, without family or friends nearby. This may be the only Thanksgiving meal they have, and the volunteer may be the only person they see all day.”

Those interested in following the event on social media are encouraged to go to VISTE’s Facebook and Instagram pages for additional information at www.facebook.com/vistelakeland and https://www.instagram.com/vistelakeland/.

Registration is closed for volunteering to deliver Thanksgiving meals. However, other volunteer opportunities are available at VISTE throughout the year. Visit VISTE’s website at www.viste.org  for additional information.

Anyone with questions may contact Steve Bissonnette, VISTE President, at steve@viste.org or  863-860-5996 (cell).

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