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Published on November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving meal delivery a tradition for some in Jacksonville

St. Vincent's, Aging True deliver more than 500 meals

By Tessa Duvall, Florida Times-Union

Teddy Richardson put his blue, orange and white taxi in park and hopped out of the driver’s seat.

From the back hatch, he grabbed a box with a warm meal inside in one hand, and a bag of fixings in the other.

He jaunted up to the front door of a small Calvin Street house and knocked.

“My name is Teddy,” he said to the man inside. “I’m with Meals on Wheels. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Next, a stop on Orchard Street, then over to Beaverbook Place. Six more houses after that.

Richardson is one of 50 cab drivers who spent Thursday morning delivering Thanksgiving meals to areas residents in need. Officially, St. Vincent’s HealthCare Riverside and Aging True have partnered to provide Aging True’s clients with a hot meal for 22 years; by Richardson’s count, it’s more like 25 years.

“They lost 3 years somehow,” he said as he pulled away from the Riverside hospital. Richardson, wearing a white button down and a black tie, hasn’t missed a Thanksgiving Meals of Wheels delivery since the collaboration started however many 20-plus years ago.

Around 500 meals were prepared by volunteers at St. Vincent’s Riverside, while St. Vincent’s Clay County and the Clay County Council on Aging partnered to provide an additional 70 meals.

That’s more than 200 pounds of turkey, 150 pounds of green beans, 18 pans of corn bread dressing and 10 gallons of gravy.

Like Richardson, the Thanksgiving meal has become a tradition for Chef Jonathan Smith. Smith, who has prepared the meal for five years, said he brings his family along for the morning.

“Thanksgiving is about giving back, so I want to make sure my kids know what it’s about,” he said.

Madison Smith, 9, was there to help scoop sides into the meal trays for a second year.

“It’s fun to help out and stuff, and help my dad, and help people who don’t have food,” Madison said.

AJ Jordan, the vice president of Jacksonville’s MAD DADS, spent his sixth Thanksgiving packing meals alongside about nine other MAD DADS volunteers.

Including the cab drivers — who donated their time and gasoline to deliver meals — the Riverside event had about 100 volunteers.

“This is an event that can bring joy to the city,” Jordan said.

Richardson, the long-time driver, agreed with that sentiment.

“You see the joy on their face when you feed them,” he said.

Richardson said he thanks God that he has enough to eat.

He’s the exact middle child of his late mother’s 21 kids, and planned to spend the rest of his Thanksgiving with family at a sister’s house — but only after the deliveries were done.

“My mama said to feed people,” he said. “That’s the way she brought us up.”

Richardson had driven the same route most years before, but had a totally new group of homes to visit this Thanksgiving.

He said his favorite memory delivering meals happened in a previous year.

“When a person walks up to you and grabs your hand and starts praying for you, that’s something you don’t forget,” he said as he drove to the last house on his list.

Robert Spraggins, whose home was Richardson’s last stop, said the delivery was a blessing.

“Praise God, praise God,” he said. “I love it. It means so much to me.”

As Richardson heads back to St. Vincent’s after dropping off Spraggins’ meal, he reaches up to his collar and yanks off the clip-on tie he’d worn all day.

Thanksgiving, it turns out, is the only time of year he wears a tie.

Another Thanksgiving in the books.

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