Dozens of volunteers gathered to help assemble and distribute hundreds of turkey dinners to seniors across Tracy during the 26th annual Senior Thanksgiving Dinner sponsored by the Rotary Club of Tracy Sunrise on Sunday at IPFES Hall on Ninth Street.

Yauana Throne, Rotary club secretary, said this was the largest number of seniors served, with 496 dinners that were delivered or picked up in a drive-through at the hall.

Throne said it was disappointing not being able to welcome seniors back to an in-person dinner this year but the club knew it was important to still have the dinner.

“We really hope to return to that once we get past all the COVID challenges that we’re all facing right now but keeping the seniors safe was a priority for us,” Throne said. “So that’s why we felt even though things seemed to be improving it was just best not to do that because we would have 400 people plus in this room and that’s just not a safe environment with COVID protocols right now.”

On Saturday club members began preparing the meal cooking 60 turkeys for the dinners. On Sunday side dishes of green beans, mashed potatoes and stuffing were cooked and and packed in to-go containers along with salads, rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

“This year it’s just phenomenal, it’s the most we’ve ever had. We’re at 496 seniors that signed up. We actually had to stop, cut it off, because we had more people wanting meals that called us at the last minute on Thursday and Friday,” Throne said.

Usually, the club has enough turkeys and supplies to make 500 meals and in the past have averaged at about serving 425 dinners.

“This year we had an overwhelming response. We’re excited and thrilled to be able to provide a nice warm meal for so many seniors here,” Throne said.

The 24 club members were joined by dozens of volunteers on Sunday to help assemble and deliver the dinners. Drawing on help from the Tracy Senior Center. Tracy Senior Association and about 50 students from the Kimball and Millennium high schools Interact clubs.

“We had just a huge outpouring of support,” Throne said.

In addition, another 30 volunteer drivers handled delivery of 360 dinners to the homes of seniors across Tracy.

“A lot of it’s going out delivery still again this year which tells us doing it this way was in the best interests of the seniors because they’re still not quite comfortable with gatherings that large,” Throne said.

An assembly line added the dinner boxes to bags which included bottles of water, candy, and dog or cat food for seniors with pets.

Bags were carried to drivers waiting in line to make deliveries to seniors across Tracy.

Watching the volunteers pack the supplies Throne said it was important to keep the dinner going even under the COVID protocols.

“I think whether they have family near them and they are having a traditional holiday meal on Thanksgiving later in the week or not either way I think they look forward to this,” Throne said. “They love it, they look forward to it and we’re just honored to be able to continue doing this even with the COVID situation.”

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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