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Turkey and a smile: Volunteers deliver Thanksgiving meals to Polk County senior citizens

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hundreds of volunteers brought turkey dinners, pie and, most importantly, a friendly face to 1,800 senior citizens Wednesday as part of a decades-long Polk County tradition.

For 23 years, Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE) has dished out Thanksgiving meals to their clients.

It’s a group that has grown and will continue to grow for the next 15 years.

“All of our clients are 70 years of age and above and, you may know that the baby boomers started turning 70 years old three years ago,” VISTE President Steve Bissonnette said. “In that time, we have seen a direct impact here locally as the number of new clients has increased from an average of 40 a month to now over 60 a month.”

VISTE aims to help seniors remain safe and independent in their own home.

Thanksgiving meals are delivered to people who otherwise might go without a turkey dinner or a visitor.

The volunteers lined up around noon Wednesday at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland to assemble the meals.

Nan Lee, 75, of Lakeland, has been overseeing the assembly line and delegating duties for ten years. She’s been volunteering for the Thanksgiving meal deliveries for much longer than that.

Nan Lee, of Lakeland, longtime volunteer

“Each year we find a way to refine what we’re doing to make it a little bit smoother flowing,” said Lee. “My heart is in it. After you deliver these meals to people and see how grateful they are and appreciative, you just can’t not do it.”

Volunteers included students from Polk State College and area high schools.

They are encouraged to deliver only a few meals so they can spend quality one-on-one time with the senior citizens.

“They want the company so they’re just so happy that we’re there and we get to talk to them and ask them questions,” said Jen Lay, who delivered a meal with her daughter Jasmine.

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