Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, and one perfect way to do that is by getting involved in your local community, with individuals who live alone or don’t have family nearby. One example is homebound seniors, some of whom are lonely and wish for human contact, and are reminded of their “aloneness” even more on Thanksgiving. Rochel Tombosky of Pittsburgh, PA started GIFT, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping homebound seniors, engaging them in activities that are meaningful and contribute in turn to the greater community. GIFT provides a sense of purpose and community, as well as plenty of opportunities for creative development.
Rochel graciously agreed to interview with us so we could learn more about her latest Thanksgiving project. We’re thinking it will give our readers some food for thought as well as some practical tips on how to spend a meaningful Thanksgiving with loved ones.
- Hey Rochel! Tell us about yourself and your inspiration for starting GIFT.
My name is Rochel Tombosky I’ve always had altruistic types of motivation but GIFT came as a result of what some may view as a failure, or as others say if one door closes another opens. We had a caregiving agency which we couldn’t keep open and I was feeling really saddened by this great loss. I regained my composure about a year later and realized that this loss of a business was a precursor to understanding a really isolated part of our community.
- What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
Thanksgiving has always been a time for family get-togethers, laughter, eating, being grateful, fun, eating some more, drinking, and eating some more and finally crashing from exhaustion from eating so much.
- Ain’t that the truth! Tell us about this latest initiative that you’re working on for homebound seniors.
My goal was to create 50 carry-away bags for homebound seniors. I raised enough money to make 70 bags. Initially I wasn’t sure where I was going to find 70 homebound seniors. Find we did! The tears, hugs, stories, and overwhelming appreciation that was received confirmed what I already knew. We have a forgotten population in our community that live next door to us, down the street from us, and in our neighborhoods. These magnificent homebound seniors were once active members of our community much like ourselves and due to age or limited mobilization they are now isolated. Thanksgiving should be a joyful holiday but when you can’t celebrate it with anyone, it is a reminder of the painful isolation. These kits will make a difference like you can’t imagine.
- What do you envision for this project to be a success?
The success of this project comes from awareness, financial contributions, and volunteers. All three of these components are needed for this project to be a momentous success.
- How did you decide what to put into the Thanksgiving to-go kits (also, what is going in them)?
With the collaboration of the chairs we came up with ideas of what should be in the kits. Volunteers will be baking and cooking a delicious freezable meal – turkey roll, stuffing, muffins, green beans, and mini pumpkin pies. Along with gifts – fuzzy winter socks, a box of tea, notepad, and beautiful Thanksgiving cards made by kids from the community.
- What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish and what’s your favorite item in these kits?
I have a sweet tooth so I’m going to say pumpkin pie. The adorable pumpkin pies in our kits will be a big winner.
- Yuummmm, I never can resist a good pumpkin pie! Tell us 3 things that you’re thankful for.
- I’m grateful for finding my passion and living it
- Being surrounded by incredible family and friends
- Having a husband who knows how to cook as good if not better than me
- What tips or advice can you offer to our readers who want to arrange Thanksgiving dinner with housebound seniors?
The challenge about homebound seniors is that they are the part of the community that are never seen. Please keep aware of the people on your block or family friends who have elderly family. Even if a meal isn’t something you can do, reach out, gain their trust, and be a help with groceries, snow removal, or appointment runs.
Thank you so much Rochel for your advice and wisdom! I have no doubt that these Thanksgiving To-Go kits will be a huge success.
If you are inspired to get involved in this special initiative, please contact Rochel at 412-401-5914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about GIFT here: www.giftpgh.org/