700 free meals prepared for Jacksonville-area families in need

Employees and volunteers at Ascension St. Vincent’s prepared meals delivered by drivers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of families in need enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday thanks to the generosity of volunteers and employees at Ascension St. Vincent’s.

A total of 700 warm meals were offered. Ascension St. Vincent’s in Riverside and Clay County prepared the meals using:

  • 165 lbs. of turkey
  • 175 lbs. of green beans
  • 175 lbs. of mashed potatoes
  • 185 lbs. of stuffing
  • 5 cases of fresh cranberries

“We are so grateful for all of our volunteers who wake up early on Thanksgiving morning to prepare and deliver the meals to hundreds of local families in need,” said Tom VanOsdol, Ascension Florida’s president and CEO.

Ascension St. Vincent’s partners with Aging True Community Senior Services to identify meal recipients through its Meals on Wheels program, which serves more than 6,000 seniors in Northeast Florida.

Once the meals were boxed up, cab drivers arrived for the special deliveries.

Teddy Richardson has driven the meals to their special recipients for 26 years. For him, giving back is personal.

"For so many years, as a kid, we got Thanksgiving baskets and food that people brought us,” Richardson said. “I always said, when I get old enough that I can help people and do things for people, that I would do it."

Teddy Richardson volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels for Thanksgiving. (WJXT)

Richardson's enthusiasm for helping hasn't waned.

He said one of the most rewarding things is to know he's made someone's day a little better.

We saw that ourselves when Richardson visited Edward Smith's home.

"I really, I don't know what I'd do without them,” Smith said of the Meals on Wheels program.

Smith said he lives alone after his wife of 62 years died a couple of years ago. While Smith spends a lot of time by himself, he found a lot to be grateful for Thursday.

"I'm happy to be here, just to be here to still be here,” Smith said. “Although I'm handicapped, I'm happy."

That’s a feeling that resonates with Richardson. With his faith in mind, Richardson believes there is no better way to spend Thanksgiving.

"I thank Him for letting me able to wake up every morning to do this every year. If I don’t look forward for any day of the year, I look forward for one day -- and that’s Meals on Wheels,” Richardson said.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.