MARLTON, NJ (CBS) — For Laurie DePerro and her daughters, community service is a way of life.
For the last several years, DePerro and her daughters Alexa and Larissa of Marlton, New Jersey have spent their holiday season volunteering for Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice’s annual Thanksgiving basket deliveries, often seeing first hand how difficult and emotional it can be for families of hospice patients.
“We find that when we go visit the families at their homes, they’re always very loving. They enjoy the extra time we take out of our day to come spend time with them,” said DePerro.
Understanding how difficult coping with a terminal illness can be for patients and families, and taking into consideration the added emotion around the holiday season, Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice along with CulinArt, Inc. started Giving Thanks, Preserving Memories. The program, now in its tenth year, works with nearly 100 volunteers just before Thanksgiving to prepare 500 meals for 130 families in the South Jersey area. The volunteers put together baskets consisting of meals, hand-crafted table decorations, cameras and frames and other items that would help preserve the memories of what could be a last Thanksgiving holiday together.
The idea is to make these families lives a little easier, so they don’t have to worry about cooking on Thanksgiving and can spend more time with their loved ones, DePerro explained.
Once the baskets are assembled, community volunteers and Samaritan staff members personally deliver the baskets to the families.
“For a situation that’s so unfortunate for them and so sad, knowing that it’s going to be the last holiday with their families, they’re always in a very generous mood. They seem to sparkle and light up when we come out to their homes,” said DePerro.
That’s exactly what happened when the DePerro family walked into a quaint home in Marlton on Saturday morning.
All smiles, 96-year-old William Pierce and his daughter welcomed the family into his home. Pierce, who is a patient with Samaritan, spoke about his life growing up in Berlin, New Jersey and the clock he hand made for his daughter decades ago. His stories had everyone chuckling.
DePerro’s oldest daughter, Larissa, who also does plenty of volunteer work at Holy Family University, presented the basket to Pierce and his daughter Joan. In it was one of his favorite dishes, pumpkin pie – a dish he jokingly admits his wife didn’t quite know how to make.
When asked what he thought about the DePerro family and his basket of goodies, Pierce said, “There’s a lot of people in this world who do good things, but don’t get credit for it.”
“It’s just been a great experience for my daughters and I,” said DePerro. “We always feel so good at the end of the day, that we’ve done something nice for somebody else. Hopefully, we’ll make their thanksgiving a little more brighter.”
Fifteen-year-old Alexa has volunteered with Samaritan alongside her mom for the last seven years. At a young age, she witnessed the power of giving back to the community.
“I just feel like we’ve been really blessed this year, and just to give back to others just feels really good, and we’ve been fortunate to have Thanksgiving. Just to help others enjoy the holidays feels really good.”
Reported by Crystal Cranmore, CBSPhilly