Together for Thanksgiving
HOUGHTON — Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly served Thanksgiving meals for friends at seven sites and also home-delivered meals throughout the Copper Country.
About 30 people had signed up for a meal at St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church in Houghton, and even more showed up Thursday, said lead volunteer Julie Beck.
The holidays can be isolating for people without family or who aren’t in contact with them, Beck said. The Little Brothers dinners help provide social relationships and the human touch.
“There’s people working, retired,” she said. “Every story is different, and yet every story is as valuable as the next, whether they’re a volunteer or an elderly person coming to the party. We’re all equal here, because we’re all in the same room together.”
The diners were helped by an equal number of volunteers, who later came down to eat with them once everyone had been served. Kitchen staff showed up at 8 a.m. to begin preparing the meal, Beck said.
The Thanksgiving menu had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, beet salad, pies and more.
Additional people came in throughout the day to help set up, serve and clean up.
At the end of the meal, Beck led the crowd in a toast that “we stay healthy, happy and come back for Christmas.” She invited people in the crowd to add their own toast.
Judy Rupley of Chassell chimed in with “Thank you to the cooks!”
“I’m 85 now, and I don’t like to cook anymore because I get so tired, but I’m in good health,” she said. “I love the people, and the camaraderie, and it makes me feel good I’m part of a wonderful group.”
This is her second time coming to the Thanksgiving dinner.
“It would take me all day and all night and it wouldn’t have turned out as good,” she said. “I get tears in my eyes talking about how happy I am.”
Edyth Juve of Calumet came with her husband Robert. They connected with Little Brothers after moving back to the area two years ago.
“Right away, we had connections to the community, they’re giving us resources, telling us where things are,” she said.
Through another Little Brothers program, she and her husband receive regular visits from a little girl and her father. A former pre-school teacher, Edyth enjoys getting to be around children again. Robert also likes talking to the father, who’s around his son’s age.
Thursday’s meal gave another chance for connection. And the food was also great, Edyth said.
“This is wonderful,” she said.
Beck has been volunteering with Little Brothers for the past 40 years, after an intern she knew convinced her to start delivering Christmas meals.
The group’s been through a lot of changes over the past 10 years, Beck said, with the temporary move away from sit-down meals during the pandemic, their return, and the retirements of Mike Aten and Cathy Kass-Aten, who between them had served as executive director for most of the organization’s first 40 years. Now under the leadership of Carol Korpela, the organization is still flourishing, Beck said.
“We still have that energy that’s very positive, and things are growing,” she said. “Elders love to come here and hopefully the volunteers will continue to come to keep this mission of friendship and love moving forward.”