Meriden YMCA carrying on Thanksgiving Day tradition with changes to guard against COVID spread

New Haven

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Meriden’s YMCA is carrying out their Thanksgiving tradition with some adjustments to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

Meriden is a city that’s experienced a sharp rise in COVID-19 positive rates over the last few weeks.

Walk around the Meriden Green and you can see long lines of people waiting to get tested across the street and you can hear the concern about the virus spreading through the city if you ask just about anyone these days.

“I’m just very concerned that people need to take this seriously,” said Jackie Daniels. “I don’t think they are.”

“It’s a concern,” said Karen Erasmus. “I’m a senior citizen and I’m watching the rise.”

That concern is also being felt at the Meriden YMCA.

For the last 30 years, folks at The Y have thrown a traditional Thanksgiving Day Community feast — packing hundreds of families that may be facing tough times in their gym. They can’t do it this year out of concern that it could become a COVID superspreader event.

So, instead, they came up with a Plan B because they were determined not to let the pandemic stop them from somehow dishing out the help so many people count on this time of year.

“It’s a hard time for a lot of folks right now,” said Carmen Chaparro, Membership and Community Director at the YMCA Meriden. “I’ve had 2 emotional phone calls. One of them was a family who both husband and wife lost their jobs. The father was ill. And it was very touching. I had another family who are elderly and weren’t able to receive any food.”

“We have citizens in this town who otherwise wouldn’t have a hot meal on Thanksgiving,” said John Benigni, CEO of the Meriden, New Britain, and Berlin YMCA’s. “It may look a little different, but the intentions are still the same.”

Here’s the back-up plan: instead of gathering hundreds in the gym, they’re holding a grab-and-go event. Staff workers have spent long hours gathering food that’s been donated to the cause. They’re slicing dozens of turkeys and cooking all of the trimmings for prepackaged meals to feed close to 400 families.

People can drive to the Meriden YMCA parking lot on West Main Street starting at 11 a.m. Thanksgiving morning and safely get their meals delivered to their cars. Organizers ask that you take all of the COVID-19 safety precautions like wearing facemasks and gloves.

This way, they’re still able to carry on the tradition while also helping to lower the COVID infection curve in Meriden.

“For me, personally, it makes my heart smile,” Chaparro said.

People on The Green Tuesday afternoon had high praise for the folks at The Y managing to carry on such an important tradition.

“Oh, it’s wonderful,” said Daniels. “Meriden needs that right now.”

And that’s delicious for the cooks in the kitchen.

“It just makes my heart smile,” Chaparro said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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