Keystone Club hands Shelton seniors a Thanksgiving feast

SHELTON — More than 100 senior citizens got to take home a turkey dinner with all the fixings Wednesday in what has become an annual pre-Thanksgiving present from area teenagers.

The Boys & Girls Club of Lower Naugatuck Valley’s Keystone Club handed out prepared meals to the seniors as part of the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner at the Shelton Senior Center. The pandemic forced the shift from what had become an annual sit-down celebration to curbside pickup.

“This is so special for the seniors,” center Director Doreen Laucella said about the meal offering. “For so many of the seniors taking advantage of this every year, they are alone, no family. This really makes the holiday special for them.”

Former Boys and Girls Club of Lower Naugatuck Valley CEO Jack Ribas said, in the early 1980s, the Shelton Senior Center and the Boys & Girls Club were right next door which helped forge the relationship.

“A gentleman by the name Tom Peterson, who was the purchasing agent for the city of Shelton emceed the first dinner in the basement of the Boys & Girls Club,” Ribas recalled, “and we have been carrying on the tradition ever since.”

Shaye Roscoe, the club’s present CEO, said her organization truly values that continuing partnership with the senior center, as displayed annually with this pre-Thanksgiving dinner event.

“We feel that it is important for our teen leaders to engage in community service activities which are both positive and impactful,” Roscoe said. “It brings them together with people of different backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities and ages and teaches them a variety of life skills as well.”

Laucella said the Keystone Club members have always planned and implemented the whole event, which has included serving the food before dancing the evening away with their senior guests. COVID has changed the event but not the spirit in which it is held.

The afternoon was filled with smiles and laughter as the teens chatted with the seniors while handing over the packaged holiday feast.

“The kids really wanted to bring the dinner back … they wanted to spend time with the seniors again, but with COVID, we had to make this just curbside pickup,” Laucella said about what has been an annual event for some 40 decades.

Seniors did have the chance to go inside and pick out hats, mittens and blankets - all free and hand knitted by members of the center’s Knitting and Crocheting Club.

“That’s the kind of comradery we have here,” Laucella said. “We do for those who need our help.”

Keystone Club is a leadership development experience providing opportunities for young people ages 14 to 18 to participate, both in and out of the club, in activities in three focus areas — academic success, career preparation and community service — with the guidance of an adult adviser.