‘Connection of love’: Volunteers deliver over 500 meals to seniors in Duval, Clay counties

Ascension St. Vincent’s teams with Z-Trip, local law enforcement to deliver Thanksgiving meals

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Over 500 meals went out on Thanksgiving Day to those in need in Duval and Clay counties thanks to the efforts of volunteers with Ascension St. Vincent’s, Z-Trip and local law enforcement.

The holidays can be tough for a lot of people, and the rise in grocery store prices are not making it any easier.

People like Theodore Richardson Sr. -- or as his friends call him, “Mr. T” -- don’t mind volunteering on Thanksgiving.

“I think about the time when I did not have meals and I think about all these old people, seniors, that don’t have meals so, that’s why I’m looking forward to every year to get up and deliver meals to them,” the 29-year-old said.

Mr. T was just one of many who prepared and delivered over 500 meals around Duval and Clay counties on Thursday.

The process began at 2 a.m. with volunteers at Ascension St. Vincent’s working to plate and pack up the turkey dinners. This is the 29th year Ascension St. Vincent’s has held the Thanksgiving delivery service.

The executive chef said it’s a special kind of feeling to help your community, especially on a holiday.

“Everybody came out, and we’re trying to give that feeling of hominess, you know, and that connection of love,” Chef Geoffrey Foerst said. “We work every day to heal people with our food and nutrition, and Thanksgiving is the same as always.”

Ascension St. Vincent’s partners with Aging True Community Senior Services to provide meals for those who depend on them daily, and the hospital comes in with extra volunteers on the holiday. This makes deliveries possible when the usual employees get the day off.

Think about what goes into your family’s holiday meal and consider more than 1,500 pounds of turkey passed through the kitchen at the hospital Thursday morning.

They also handled:

  • 265 lbs of green beans
  • 430 lbs of cornmeal for dressing
  • 280 fresh-baked pies

The meals were delivered by drivers with Z-Trip since drivers for the Meals on Wheels program had the holiday off. In Clay County, Green Cove Springs and Orange Park police officers, along with deputies at the sheriff’s office, helped with the deliveries.

Z-Trip volunteers delivered 500 meals with Ascension St. Vincent's on Thanksgiving Day. (WJXT)

The general manager of Z-Trip said despite it being a holiday, he never has trouble finding volunteers.

“Actually they come up to us and find out when the date is. They’re all ready to go. We had all our drivers lined up probably about a month ago. And they’re all happy to do it and excited,” Robert Gagliardi said.

Gagliardi said it’s people like “Mr. T” who inspire others to get out and help their community.

“Happy Thanksgiving to everybody. I love my job. I love my people, and I love the world. Thank God,” Richardson said.

“Mr. T” said he plans on delivering these meals until he is told he is no longer able.