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Clinton Township

Henry Ford Macomb lends kitchen to delivering Thanksgiving meals

November 27, 2012

» click to enlarge «
Jacqueline Schoenherr, a culinary worker in the kitchen of Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, finishes loading a case that kept Thanksgiving meals hot until volunteer drivers delivered them to homebound Macomb County seniors.

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Not everyone has a place to spend the holidays.

However, thanks to a partnership between the Macomb County Senior Nutrition Program and Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, roughly 450 people who aren’t able to leave their homes didn’t have to go without the tastes of Thanksgiving this year.

Since 1996, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital — located on 19 Mile, west of Garfield — has lent its kitchen facility and culinary staff to make the meals that are delivered to homebound seniors through a county program called Meals on Wheels.

In actuality, the program runs every Monday through Friday, feeding about 1,400 homebound seniors, with the hospital’s Culinary Wellness staff cooking up about 220 of those meals. 

But for three holidays a year — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter — the number of meals cooked by the hospital increases to roughly 450 meals, since the other local partners — namely local schools — are closed.

Katherine Benford, director of the Macomb County Senior Nutrition Program, said without a community partner like the hospital, which has a facility able to  make up to 500 Thanksgiving dinners, the program wouldn’t be capable of making the delivery.

“The overall scope of the program is 1,400 meals (every weekday). But the demand for service on the holidays is less than it is day to day, presuming that the individuals who aren’t getting it on Thanksgiving Day are spending it with their family and friends,” Benford added.

For Henry Ford Macomb’s Culinary Wellness team, it’s no doubt a monumental task. The preparation begins the day before, said Julie Carrigan, regional director of Henry Ford’s Culinary Wellness department.

Carrigan said the Thanksgiving meal preparations included cooking 150 pounds of turkey, more than 100 pounds of potatoes and 75 pumpkin pies, not to mention similarly massive amounts of other Thanksgiving staples: green bean casserole, cranberries and stuffing. 

The county reimburses Henry Ford Macomb for the costs of producing the meals. Once cooked, the meals are picked up and delivered by a corps of volunteer drivers. All of the meals are delivered by lunchtime.

“We do rely on the community to help with this entire operation,” Benford said.

Meals on Wheels serves homebound seniors, ages 60 years old or older. The average age of the recipients is 81, Benford said.

For the seniors who receive food through Meals on Wheels, the program may mean not just getting one or two meals five days a week, but also a chance for some brief, but much-desired, face-to-face interaction with another person.

For the better part of a quarter century, Diane Anklam, along with her husband and children, have donated their Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter mornings to Meals on Wheels.

Diane Anklam helps coordinate the delivery drivers with recipients’ addresses, and on occasion has filled in to deliver the meals as needed.

Anklam said what started as a lesson to teach their three children about selflessness turned into a family tradition — one that has carried on now that her children are well into adulthood.

“They’ve been doing it since they were little. Now they’re adults and they like to do it,” she said. “If I tell someone we do it, they’re like, ‘How can I do it?’ People want to help; they just don’t know how.”

For more information about signing up for Macomb County’s Meals on Wheels, or to learn about volunteering for the program, call (586) 469-5228.

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