Stepping up to the plate: Naples Senior Center delivers meals, smiles for Thanksgiving

Andrew Atkins
Naples Daily News

Bob Blinn calls Alan Horowitz his “visiting angel.”

“He is really wonderful people, and all those people at the senior center are wonderful, too,” Blinn said.

He was talking about the Naples Senior Center’s meal delivery program. Horowitz is one of the volunteers who stepped up the plate when COVID-19 meant the senior center could no longer serve its weekly meals or operate its food pantry in person. Every week, Horowitz drops off groceries and a meal to three people, Blinn included.

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For Thanksgiving, the senior center distributed traditional meals for the holiday — replete with turkey, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes — to 65 households. Naples Senior Center president and CEO Jaclyn Faffer said, for some, providing this meal is a taste of normalcy.

Volunteer Alan Horowitz converses with Naples Senior Center member Robert Blinn, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at Blinn's home in Naples.

“This is a very different Thanksgiving,” Faffer said. “Seniors struggle with isolation and loneliness, and it’s terribly exacerbated by what’s been going on during the pandemic.”

In practice, the nonprofit mitigates that exacerbation with volunteers like Horowitz, who get to know the people they deliver to — like Blinn or Sunny Jackson.

“He always asks you how you are, and he’s very genuine with his concern,” Jackson said. “He remembers and he always asks you about whatever you’ve told him.”

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Faffer said the nonprofit pivoted from its in-person services to a delivery model in March, when the pandemic shuttered in-person activities. They’ve kept at it since, and it means the world to Blinn, who said this is the only Thanksgiving meal he’d receive.

“I will be alone. I live alone, and it’s very, very tough, being alone. You have to make the best of it,” Blinn said. “Everybody I know at my age, at 85, they’re all dead. Some of the best people I ever knew as friends, they’re gone. They’re dead.”

Blinn said he thought about getting a turkey but said, “If I’m going to be by myself, why do I need a turkey?”

Thankfully he has a friend not only in Horowitz, but in other volunteers, too.

“That’s what fellowship is all about,” Blinn said. “I ought to do a commercial for these people … I am so thankful it’s there.”

Frankly it’s difficult for Horowitz to tell who gets more out of it: him or the people he serves.

Naples Senior Center member Sunny Jackson receives a Thanksgiving meal from volunteer Alan Horowitz, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at her home in Naples.

“When you see these people, they’re so happy to see you once a week,” he said. “It warms your heart. You’re making these people feel happy.”

Jackson confirmed.

“It’s been very nice. Alan is my volunteer, and Alan used to serve the lunches at the buffet. So Alan comes to see me, and he brings a bag of goodies,” she said. “I look forward to it. That’s kind of the highlight of my week, Alan coming to bring lunch.”

While Thanksgiving in particular carries a special meaning, Horowitz takes note of the smiles he gets any time he delivers. He, like Blinn, pointed to the staff at the senior center as setting the tone and the standard for the volunteer work he does.

Volunteer Bryan Zhao of Estero, packs Thanksgiving meals that will be delivered to home bound seniors, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at the Naples Senior Center.

“I just think the world of all those people. And I mean all of those people there,” Blinn said. “I have people that call me every day.”

The pandemic means folks like Blinn will spend the day physically alone, but he knows a friend is just a phone call away.

Andrew Atkins is a Naples Daily News features reporter. Contact him via email at To support work like Andrew's, please consider subscribing: