No one eats Thanksgiving alone at Presbyterian Manor

Heather Wallace uncovers sweet potato casserole for the employee Thanksgiving feast, Friday, at Newton Presbyterian Manor. The retirement home is expecting to feed a traditional Thanksgiving meal to about 150 residents and 50 guests on Wednesday. Blake Spurney/Newton Now

By Blake Spurney, Newton Now Staff

While most residents will be ensconced with family on Thanksgiving, hundreds of residents in retirement homes will be feasting on one of their favorite meals of the year.

They will rave about Thanksgiving,” said Marc Fitzroy, director of dining services, about the 150 residents at Newton Presbyterian Manor. “We don’t do fancy, because that’s not what residents want. They want comfort food.”

Lynda Burse, vice president of nutritional services at Asbury Park, said her staff was excited to work on holidays, because some of the residents were unable to get out.

The staff will make it right for them,” she said. “Yeah, they’ll make sure it’s perfect. They just consider the elders, their family. [The residents are] all pretty excited about it. This is one of their favorite meals.”

Each retirement campuses will prepare 10-12 turkeys and all the fixings, such as green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy and creamed corn.

Presbyterian Manor will serve its big spread Wednesday to residents and about 50 guests. Residents will be served leftover staples, like turkey casserole and turkey sandwiches Thanksgiving evening, to remind them of home, Fitzroy said.

The residents love it,” he said. “It’s become a marketing tool for the manor. One of the things people miss when moving into a home is home-cooked food.”

Burse said the residents and about 50 guests would have their choice of pecan or pumpkin pies. Both homes offer liberalized diets, which means diabetics can have a half piece of pie, instead of a full slice. A liberalized diet promotes quality of life and enjoyment of food over dietary prescriptions. She said the goal was for residents to maintain their weight, because, if elders are put on a really restrictive diet, they quit eating.

Fitzroy said his staff would be making “every kind of pie you can think of.”

Heather Wallace, a supervisor at Presbyterian Manor, said she always volunteered to work holidays.

These people have become my family, they really have,” she said. “And, you can see it on their faces. It’s joyous.”

Wallace and the kitchen staff will spend several hours the day before, prepping the food. Then, they will spend about four hours more on the day of the big meal.

It’s huge,” she said. “We usually have anywhere from 40 to 60 guests, who join us for that.”

Roughly 20 percent of Presbyterian Manor residents don’t have family in the area, but Fitzroy said no one was ever alone.

If you haven’t noticed, everyone here is family,” he said. “Everywhere says that, but here, it’s a reality.”