‘It means tradition and family.’ Valentine Boys & Girls Club distributes 500 Thanksgiving meals to families


Rachel Calderon, 63, remembers walking into the Louis L. Valentine Boys and Girls Club in Bridgeport as a young girl with her mother and siblings.

The pandemic has forced the Valentine’s Club to cease serving in-building meals for the past few years, but that doesn’t deter the organization from hosting its annual Tony Maurello Thanksgiving dinner event. was.

On Wednesday, volunteers distributed more than 500 meals to local families. This is his 55th event and has become a tradition for Calderon and other local residents, making him one of Chicago’s oldest meal distribution events.


Volunteers from the Louis L. Valentine Boys & Girls Club prepared Thanksgiving meals at distribution tables. This is the 55th edition of Bridgeport Events.

Tyler Paciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“It means tradition and family. I was looking forward to enjoying my meal.

Each dinner consists of food donated by the community and includes carved turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and dessert. Aldo was among those who donated food. Nicole Lee’s mother who made trays of mashed potatoes.

Lee and her family joined other volunteers to help prepare food at the Valentine’s Club on Wednesday.

“I think it’s a source of comfort and pride for the community for the members of the community who eat it on Thanksgiving who might otherwise not have been able to eat it,” Lee said.


Kanoa Lee-Klein (left) and her mother, Aldo. Nicole Lee (11th), helping prepare the meal. Lee’s mother made a tray of mashed potatoes.

Tyler Paciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Another volunteer, 17-year-old Rachel Carpenter, was at the event to enjoy a meal with her family and community, so she got the chance to see what it was like to be on the other side of the line. rice field.

Carpenter, who has been going to clubs since she was two years old, said, “I can see both sides of the situation and the need to bring food and giving food has given me a great experience. Bring the family we have into the community and touch other people the way the club touched me.”

The annual dinner is named after Tony Maurello, one of the club’s late board members. Every year Tony Maurello wore a green tuxedo and stood in front of the club handing out food. Maurero died several years ago.

Walter Sikora, 75, remembered when Maurero received his meal. Sikora has been attending Thanksgiving events for over 10 years. “He was such a wonderful person,” Sikora said of Maurello.

“I used to bring my mom here when she was in her 80s,” Sikora said. “It was such a great opportunity to sit with people,” she said.


17-year-old Rachel Carpenter (left) has been dining out at the club with her family for the past few years. He was in charge of school lunches this year.

Tyler Paciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Sikora, Calderón and the volunteers all lamented not being able to sit down and enjoy a meal with the community this year, but hope next year’s event will be a more traditional dinner. Even so, they were happy that the event was still going well.

“It’s very important to bring food out and keep traditions alive,” said Carpenter. “For me and my family, it’s great that even with the pandemic and the whole world on the move, we’re able to keep our traditions alive.”


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Written by Natalia Chi

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