VOLUNTEERING to ensure that the town’s senior citizens received bountiful gift bags of holiday food for Thanksgiving at Sunday’s drive-through event were (from left): Select Board members Steve O’Leary, Liane Gonzalez and Chair Kate Manupelli; state Sen. Bruce Tarr, Director of Elder Services Mary Prenney, Senior Center Administrative Assistant Sherri Greer, Senior Center Outreach Coordinator Sue Tilton, and Linda and state Rep. Brad Jones. (Maureen Doherty Photo)



NORTH READING — A cornucopia of goodies awaited the more than 150 senior citizens who signed up to partake in the Thanksgiving drive-through event Sunday held afternoon at the Hillview.

Held outdoors in the now-familiar grab-and-go pick up line style due to COVID-19 concerns, the event served as a substitute for the traditional sit-down Thanksgiving dinner social hosted for decades in town to provide local senior citizens with an opportunity to socialize with long-time friends and neighbors, meet new friends and ensure seniors are celebrated during the busy holiday season for their many contributions to the community throughout their lives.

For many years now the event has been co-hosted by state Rep. Brad Jones, his wife Linda Jones and state Senator Bruce Tarr after they took it over from the late Edie O’Leary. Mrs. O’Leary created the event and served for decades as an advocate for elder affairs as the first Elder Affairs director in town, and for whom the town’s Senior Center is named.


ROLLING a cart filled with just a few of the hundreds of items donated to the Food Pantry by the town’s senior citizens during Sunday’s Thanksgiving Day gift bag pick up are Chris Stewart (left), a legislative aide to state Rep. Brad Jones, and Mike Smith, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director to Rep. Jones. (Maureen Doherty Photo)


The behind-the-scenes work goes on for weeks, whether the event is held in a grand ballroom with the singing state trooper for entertainment or the parking lot of the country club with the grand ballroom decorated with festive balloons and a large, inflatable turkey. Linda, Brad and Bruce tapped the resources of many friends, colleagues and family members to organize it and many businesses and sponsors offered either in-kind gifts or monetary donations, Rep. Jones told the Transcript.

This year’s goodie bags included the following foods or items from local businesses: Farmland: chicken tortellini soup, scali bread, cookies; Harrows: apple pie; Century House: pecan rolls; Russell Orchard: apples, apple cider, apple cider donuts; Dunkin – The Scrivanos family – 1 lb. bags of coffee; The Savings Bank: Norman Rockwell calendar, pie slicer, ice cream scoop; Calareso’s Farmstand: pineapples; The Reading Cooperative Bank: face masks, pens.

“Generous financial sponsors were CVS, The Savings Bank, Amazon and the Reading Cooperative Bank,” added Jones.


SEN. BRUCE TARR passed an oversized gift bag into the car of one of the more than 150 seniors who participated in the drive-up event Sunday at the Hillview in lieu of the traditional sit-down dinner due to COVID. (Maureen Doherty Photo)


The trio offered special thanks the Hillview Commission: George Stack and Karen Moberg; the North Reading Police Department and North Reading DPW; Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto; and Select Board members Liane Gonzalez, Kate Manupelli and Steve O’Leary as well as Director of Elder Services Mary Prenney and her husband Brad Prenney, and Senior Center employees Sherri Greer and Susan Tilton for all of the behind-the-scenes and day-of assistance that they provided for the event, whether greeting the guests, packing the gift bags; or unloading, sorting and re-loading the Food Pantry donations.

In addition to receiving their gift bag, the senior citizens also gave back to the town as well because this event serves as an annual food drive from the town’s elders to the North Reading Food Pantry which will go a long way toward assisting those local residents who are struggling to make ends meet.

It’s all in the name of giving thanks, giving back, and paying it forward.