KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For many, Thanksgiving is a day to cherish time with loved ones and enjoy a good meal. But for some without families or homes, the holiday is a struggle to get through.
Charley Wood is one of the hundreds of volunteers across Knoxville trying to make it a happy holiday for all. He has been delivering meals to homebound seniors nearly every Thursday since 1995. This Thanksgiving is no exception.
"I'll do it until the day I die, I guess," Wood said.
He began volunteering at CAC Mobile Meals after his mother passed away.
"I did this as an honor to her, so now I can't stop," Wood added.
Although the meals are appreciated, he said the people he delivers them to are hungrier for a conversation. One of his four stops on Thursday was at the home of a 90-year-old woman, Mary Phelps.
She lost her husband, Jack, around a year and a half ago. For her, this Thanksgiving was an especially somber one.
"Today would've been Jack's birthday," she said.
Phelps said she wouldn't be able to survive without Mobile Meals deliveries, and she's not alone.
"Meals on wheels is actually, in a way, a miracle," said Barbara Morse a 78-year-old who also receives meals from the program.
She started receiving meals through the program in January. Phelps and Morse were two of the 600 seniors across Knox County who received Mobile Meals this Thanksgiving.
At Knox Area Rescue Ministries, more than 300 people were also served hot meals.
"Even more than the meal, you can hear the banter back here, it's warmth around the table," said KARM CEO Burt Rosen.
That warmth and hope are what keep Rosen and volunteers like Wood keep going.
"Everybody can find something that they're thankful for even in the hardest of times," Rosen added.
Many years and new friendships later, Wood said he gets as much out of it as the recipients do.
Volunteers traveled 64 routes to deliver mobile meals to every zip code in Knox County.