Published on November 27, 2014

Taxis deliver Thanksgiving meal and company to elderly

By Denise Smith Amos 

Theodore “Teddy” Richardson has been driving a cab for nearly 40 years, but for the past 23 Thanksgivings he has put off paying customers and instead transported piping hot turkey dinners.

Richardson was one of about 30 Jacksonville taxi cab drivers who lined the streets around St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Riverside, loaded their cabs with meals, and did the driving for Aging True Community Senior Services, which runs the local Meals on Wheels.

Together, the cab drivers delivered 509 turkey dinners to needy, elderly or disabled people within a couple of hours.

Richardson, a 63-year-old Gator City Taxi driver, smiled though he said he was a little sad, because for the past 20 or so years his Thanksgiving Day route rarely varied and he had grown fond of the dozen seniors he’d visit with each year.

“I love to see my customers and they are happy to see me,” he said. “They smile and greet me.”

This year, though, Richardson was assigned eight new addresses and made the acquaintance of 10 new people in the Mixson Town part of Jacksonville.

There were Willie and Lois Winsley, retirees living in a single-story wood paneled home with a long wheelchair ramp outside. Willie, 80, helps care for Lois, 84, who had a stroke but who rolls around and smiled at Richardson when he carried in the food.

Willie Winsley said their children have grown and moved away, but this visit and the turkey dinner were highlights of their day.

“We hardly ever see anybody,” he said. “I’m just thanking God to be here. Every day should be Thanksgiving Day, if you live to see it.”

Pearl Major, 85, thanked Richardson as she balanced her turkey dinner in one hand while grasping a cane with the other. This was her main meal for the day, she said, because she didn’t cook.

“I had a knee replacement, and sometimes it’s hurting me so bad that I don’t feel like cooking,” she said. “A good many holidays they come and bring me food and I sure do appreciate it.”

After Richardson handed three dinners over a fence to Mona Lisa Miller for her and her two elderly parents, he said there are probably many more seniors and others who need help but he and the volunteers couldn’t reach them all.

On regular days, Aging True’s Meals on Wheels delivers about 800 meals a day to regular clients.

For Thanksgiving, Aging True and the North Florida Transportation cabs joined with dozens of other volunteers at St. Vincent’s Healthcare to cook, package and deliver the meals, which included more than 150 pounds of turkey, 125 pounds each of green beans, mashed potatoes and stuffing, and 75 pounds of cranberries.

All across the First Coast, groups like the Sulzbacher Center, homeless shelters, missions, food pantries, churches and individuals fed people for free for Thanksgiving.

Richardson, who rents his cab for about $118 a day on regular days but paid about half that to rent it Thursday for the Meals on Wheels run, said it was more than worth it to see people’s smiles.

“People will tell you their life story,” he said. “Wouldn’t you pay money to do that every day?”

Richardson was looking forward to getting home to his wife and then visiting an older sister, who at 77 was cooking for him and the rest of their extended family, which includes his 10 brothers, 11 sisters, and their children and grandchildren.

Richardson said he’s lucky.

“I’m never hungry,” he said. “I’ve got people all over the city feeding me. I’m never alone.”

Denise Amos: (904) 359-4083

Slideshow from Thanksgiving Day: