LYNNFIELD — With Christmas this week, one might think some of the town’s senior citizens were signaling for peace on earth as they held up two fingers and drove their cars through the Senior Center on Salem Street Tuesday morning.
In reality, the seniors were letting Center Director Linda Naccara and her five colleagues know just how many meals they ordered as part of the Center’s “grab and go” lunch program, and two just happened to be a popular number. Peace signs or not, the holiday cheer was palpable.
“Thank you so much, Santa!” said one woman as she drove up in her car and watched Santa Claus — decked out in the full, red velvet suit and long, white beard — place a box of chocolates wrapped in holiday paper in her trunk.
“Merry Christmas! Ho ho ho!” said Santa in one breath, followed by a “Happy Hanukkah!” in the next for the next man up.
Though masks (decorated with everything from gingerbread men to snowflakes) concealed any smiling faces among the seniors and staff, the hum of car engines and jingle from Santa’s clanging bells made for quite the lively scene.
Janine Bennett, the center’s receptionist, seemed to know every person who came through the line despite the speed of the well-oiled system and the inadvertent disguising masks.
“Is that Barbara and Dan?” Bennett called out. “We know people by their cars at this point!” she added, laughing.
And an abundance of cars there were: Naccara had to dip into her extra supply of chocolates as more vehicles continued to arrive.
“When our meal program closed because of COVID, we knew we had to find a way to keep it going above all else,” said Naccara. “We had to work out the kinks at first, but now we’ve got it down.”
Claire Foustoukos is the van driver for Lynnfield Rides. She was in charge of grabbing the bagged meals and placing them in the trunk of each vehicle while Santa handled the little chocolate gifts.
“We were desperate to keep everyone employed, and to keep the town and the seniors happy,” said Foustoukos. “And I think we are.”
The Senior Center has had to adapt in the age of COVID-19, now offering online services including exercise classes that have become widely popular.
The “grab and go” program is no exception. Naccara said they serve some 80 meals on average with each round of pick-ups (the service is offered three days a week), and each meal is made from scratch and then bagged individually. Some are even made special-to-order for those with an allergy such as peanuts.
“It’s all contactless, which is great,” said Foustoukos.
Bennett waved as the last car, its trunk filled with food and chocolate, drove away.
“I love this job. It’s just the best,” said Bennett.