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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Volunteers take care of Thanksgiving for the elderly and disabled

2016 Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels volunteers (left to right): Mary Lee Di Spirito, Maribeth Luftglass, her sons David and Adam, and Don Di Spirito. 
While most local families enjoyed being together for a festive meal on Thanksgiving, some of our neighbors take some time out to make sure elderly and disabled people living alone would not be forgotten.

For the past 30 years or so, Mary Lee Di Spirito of Annandale has been rounding up volunteers to deliver Turkey dinners on Thanksgiving to those in need. A similar effort takes place on Christmas.

Volunteers from seven families dropped off 37 holiday meals on Thanksgiving to people in Annandale and Bailey’s Crossroads who can’t fend for themselves and have nowhere to go. It’s an outgrowth of Fairfax County’s Meals and Wheels program, Di Spirito says, with additional individuals referred through Britepaths’ holiday program.

The food is prepared by Jeffrey’s Catering of Alexandria, the same company that provides food for Meals on Wheels, but when Di Spirito started, she and a team of volunteers did the cooking themselves.   

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Di Spirito called the clients to see if they will be home on the holiday, coordinated the distribution list, prepared route sheets, and recruited volunteers.

The volunteers, some of whom have been doing this for decades, picked up the food at the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter, which serves as the staging location, and dropped them off at homes throughout Annandale and Bailey’s Crossroads. 

This year, clients received a hot container with turkey, cornbread stuffing, gravy, candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, and a cold container with sliced turkey on a roll, ambrosia, and milk. Di Spirito added potato chips and coconut cake.

Volunteers also provided favors for the clients. A Girl Scout troop made pilgrim decorations and napkin holders, Cub Scouts sent pictures in decorated frames, and Fairfax County Region II Human Services Director Elisa Lueck and her daughters sent along mason jars decorated like turkeys and filled with candy.

“We have such wonderful community support,” Di Spirito says. 


  1. Great article on two fantastic volunteers. Don is currently working on the ACCA winter outerwear collection to benefit day laborers, residents of the Bailey's Community Shelter and children at the ACCA Child Development Center.

  2. ACCA has done such great things for Annandale (and beyond) for so long; I'm glad to see they're still going strong!

  3. Great job, but could these people be transported to a communal dinner at a church or somewhere where they could get socialization & a sense of family too? Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arlington has a Thanksgiving dinner where a team cooks turkeys & attendees bring side dishes. Or is liability transporting these folks a problem? Great job bringing together Meals on Wheels, scout troops and other volunteers to bring food & joy to seniors.