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Melly Mel’s Soul Food partners with NewBridge Madison & Door Creek Church to bring Thanksgiving meals to isolated older adults

Carmell Jackson (fourth from left), owner of Melly Mel's Soul Food, with staff and volunteers getting ready to make 350 Thanksgiving dinners for older adults in the Madison area. (Photo supplied.)

Carmell Jackson, owner of Melly Mel’s Soul Food, has been pretty busy this week preparing 350 Thanksgiving meals that will be delivered today to isolated older adults in the Madison area.

“It really makes me happy to do this. I love doing it. It makes me feel good when people enjoy my food for the holiday season,” Jackson tells Madison365.

Throughout the day today, NewBridge Madison will be partnering with Door Creek Church and Melly Mell’s Soul Food to deliver 350 Thanksgiving meals to Madison-area older adults with the help of 50 volunteers.

“This is the second year that NewBridge came to me and asked me to prepare individually packed meals and partner with them,” Jackson says. “I will prepare the meals. The turkeys are donated, but I’m doing the rest of the sides like dressing and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and dinner rolls and green beans with potatoes.”

The Thanksgiving baskets include turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, green beans with potatoes, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie.

For the past few days, Jackson has been cooking large turkeys and sweet potato pies which she will divvy up into portions with a variety of different side dishes that she has also been working on.

  “Volunteers came to help put it all together and will deliver them to hundreds of people’s houses – people who are shut in or isolated will get a nice Thanksgiving meal,” Jackson says. “I think it’s a great thing that we’re doing this and I hope that it makes a lot of people happy.”

Founded in 1975, NewBridge is Madison’s gateway for older adults to access affordable resources to maintain their health, safety, independence, and community connections.

“The Thanksgiving Day meal delivery program for older adults has a history full of wonderful community partnerships and collaborations dating back to the 1980s,” Jim Krueger, executive director of NewBridge, tells Madison365. “Ed Manuel Sr. started the program for South Side older adult residents with the South Madison Neighborhood Center. In 1992, Rev. David Smith, then pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church, inherited the program and collaborated with the South Madison Coalition of the Elderly (SMCOE) to identify more older adults needing a Thanksgiving Day meal. Volunteers from throughout the city deliver these meals each year.

“Rev. Smith is now pastor at Door Creek Church, SMCOE has become part of NewBridge Madison and the program is now available throughout Madison and the surrounding communities,” Krueger adds. “On Thanksgiving Day, volunteers will deliver a traditional Thanksgiving meal, catered by Melly Mel’s Deli & Catering, to 350 older adults in Madison as a treasured Thanksgiving tradition continues.”

Jackson has been back and forth to the grocery store this week to assemble everything that she needs for the meals. Many of these older adults who will be receiving Thanksgiving baskets today are food insecure and homebound, so this meal is essential and uplifting during a difficult time.

“My mom is one of those people. She’s by herself. I try to give her meals and everything,” Jackson says. “Daddy’s gone and we’re all grown and everybody’s working and they’ve missed those Thanksgiving meals and dinners that they used to prepare for their families. So it’s a special place in my heart to be doing this.”

The Thanksgiving baskets include turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, green beans with potatoes, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie.

“Everything is individually packed. We’re doing 350 of everything,” Jackson says.

On top of that tall order, Jackson and Melly Mel’s will also be making 35 dinners for homeless people that they will pass out on Thanksgiving day. 

“I’m giving them turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams, dressing, green beans with potatoes. Just something I’m doing extra because they need the help,” she says. “We will be doing that the same day.”

Plus she has 10 personal meals that she will be preparing for recurring Melly Mel’s customers. All in all, it’s going to be an incredibly busy Thanksgiving day.

“I’ve got two deliveries at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. After that, I’m free,” she laughs. “I’ll be dancing. I’ll be doing a jig.”

Jackson says she would love to see more people preparing and delivering food for people who need it not just on Thanksgiving, but all year long.

“It’s sad that we just do that for the holiday. We need to do it year-round,” she says. “When I have had extra food, I have put it in to-go boxes and taken it to the homeless shelter or take it to people on the street. People are hungry every day … not just on the holidays, you know? So this is special to my heart and always special when I”m done.”