By Danielle Ray, Senior Reporter

When Frances Thomas retired from school food service in 2016, she decided to put her culinary skills to good use as a volunteer in the Senior Center kitchen. 

“I wanted to get involved in the community and the Senior Center seemed like the place to go,” she said. “I like being involved and feeling like I am providing help where needed.”

Thomas grew up in Boylston and moved to Florida for 10 years before settling back in the area in Princeton a little over seven years ago. When in house meals provided by Making Opportunity Count, or MOC, began in July 2019 at the Senior Center she was part of the team that fed the seniors. 

“Because of my food service experience, it felt natural to help in this capacity,” Thomas said. “With great and dedicated volunteers, approximately 12 to 15 seniors from town enjoyed a meal and conversation in our Senior Center dining area each week.”

When the pandemic hit last March and the Senior Center closed, they had to reconfigure the logistics and figure out a way to continue providing meals to local seniors. 

“These meals could no longer take place and after a few months, the idea of preparing and distributing a no-contact meal was implemented in October 2020,” Thomas said. 

The monthly meal consists of an entrée and dessert and takes the hard work of six or seven dedicated volunteers including Thomas “to make these meals come together.”

Thomas is ServSafe certified, as is Mike Warren, Vice Chair of the Council on Aging board “and a dedicated volunteer”, she said. 

I originally got mine when I lived in Florida and worked in school food service there,” Thomas said. “I let it expire when I retired, thinking there would no longer be a need to have it – silly me. I recertified in November because of grab-and-go, Mike had gotten his after another board member retired.”

Thomas and the other volunteers have been instrumental in getting meals cooked and packed up for grab-and-go distribution and home delivery, approximately 65 meals a month such as chili, mac and cheese, shepherd’s pie, chicken and rice, and “the most popular by far,” sausage and tortellini soup.

“There were so many requests for this recipe it was included in the February newsletter,” Thomas said. “If you have a suggestion for a meal, please let us know. If you would like to volunteer, that would be welcome as well!”

COA Director Judith Webster said Thomas is a great asset to the senior center. 

“Fran has been such a wonderful addition as an alternate member of the board and as one of the best volunteers at the COA,” Webster said. “Her background and ServSafe certification, not to mention her fabulous recipes, have made the grab-and-go program grow every month. We are so lucky to have her.”

Thomas said the COA board began offering a no-cook breakfast grab-and-go meal beginning in February, and this month a third take home craft project is available as well. 

“We also deliver meals to residents at Wachusett House,” she said. “With the lack of in-person connection this past year, it is so important to reach out to our seniors in Princeton. By offering these meals we hope this is one way to do that.”         

Thomas said if anyone would like a meal delivered to their home, call the senior center at 978-464-5977.  

“We would be happy to deliver it to you.”