Thanksgiving meals for Mission Viejo seniors

The Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center located in Mission Viejo. Caroline Krutcik/Courtesy

The city of Mission Viejo works to gather donations for the senior citizen community during the holiday season

The global pandemic has forced a large amount of senior citizens to self-isolate and stay away from their friends and relatives. Due to their high-risk factor to contracting the coronavirus even senior homes have closed their doors to the general public. Organizations like the Age Well Senior Services have since extended their help to enhance the holiday for seniors.

Rieka Cruize, the Senior Engage Life Director at Atria Del Sol, has been working tirelessly to keep the facilities and seniors safe and upbeat. Though activities within the home have been extremely limited since the individual isolations have been lifted the seniors have been able to roam indoors freely. 

“For a long time, these people were self-isolating, without any outside visitors at all,” Cruize said. “This was very tough. Many have been struggling since the pandemic. We’re celebrating the recent positive changes with roaming activities and holiday festivities.”

Centers like Atria del Sol have been doing their part in boosting morale but the non-profit organizations have experienced major setbacks since the pandemic began. Due to increased participants seeking donations the volunteers have seen a dramatic strain in their normal inventories. Reaching out and receiving more help from the rest of the community has helped make the holiday events possible.

Seniors who want a break from the repetition of in-house cooking have the opportunity to partake in the donation centers that fund and run local food drives. The Park It Market is just one of many organizations that have helped thousands.

It began in 2008 and has been held at the Norman P. Murray Center located in Mission Viejo. Utilizing the space and versatility of a truck volunteers can both pick up and deliver the donations. 

Every Friday morning the truck offers a drive-through pickup for those above 55 to collect necessities. If someone is new to the event they are also permitted to sign up and apply on-site. They have grown since the infancy of the organization when only packaged foods and cans were offered. 

Since more businesses and organizations have helped strengthen and expand the cause perishable goods are now available and distributed. Through print marketing and word-of-mouth more focused causes like the Sponsor a Senior have helped countless families. 

“Recently we have had more people needing our help and that has been tricky,” said Mark Nix, Mission Viejo’s Director of Recreational and Community events. “Our donations from churches and other partnering businesses have helped a lot. Our goal is to spice things up for Thanksgiving and give enough for leftovers.”

These organizations’ leaders work with other businesses interested in working to feed and help Mission Viejo seniors. Rock Harbor Church has lent their efforts to supply the Thanksgiving menu items and add more donations from their parish. 

Chrissy Willis, who acts as a large contributor in Rock Harbor’s Involvement initiatives, gushes at how pivotal the community values are within their practices. Their goals exceed bettering themselves but rather seek out to find those struggling and in need. 

“During the coronavirus season we have tried to make sure there is no one left in a bad place,” Willis said. “Churches have reached out to other churches. It almost feels like the pandemic spurred all of these groups to connect and it’s not even just church-related.”

The city has been further searching for businesses and individuals willing to donate to the Thanksgiving cause. The donations go towards funding holiday-themed meals for the senior seniors to alleviate some of the pressures they face daily. More information and direct channels set up for donations are found on the Norman P. Murray’s Facebook page.