Mission Moment: “Why I Volunteer at Thanksgiving”

A longtime VISTE supporter and volunteer, Bonnie Paternoster comes from a close-knit family that believes in service to others. According to Bonnie, her parents, Dee and Charles Clayton, “were the kind who always took care of other people,” especially the elderly. Bonnie also has a passion for helping the elderly.

Originally from New Jersey, Bonnie and her family moved to Florida and lived in Lakeland for many years. She began volunteering for VISTE 20 years ago, after seeing an article in the local newspaper asking for volunteers to help deliver Thanksgiving meals to VISTE clients. In those days, she says, volunteers dropped by Crisper’s restaurant in downtown Lakeland to pick up the holiday meals.

She enjoyed the experience and the following year invited her sister, Robin Cole, to help deliver Thanksgiving meals as well. Accompanied by Robin’s three children, the group brought holiday meals and cheer to elderly clients living in a low-income housing community in north Lakeland.

Bonnie has been delivering Thanksgiving meals ever since. She now calls Bradenton home, but she and her husband, Barry, still drive to Lakeland every year to deliver Thanksgiving meals. She particularly likes visiting with the clients during the meal deliveries. She knows that many VISTE clients have no one in their lives, and a visit from a friendly VISTE volunteer can help dispel the loneliness that the clients feel on a daily basis.

A few years ago in a local grocery store she spotted an elderly couple, both very frail, shopping with the help of a VISTE volunteer or VISTE staff driver. She was delighted to see the couple – she had delivered a Thanksgiving meal to them several years earlier. “I think it meant more to me than to them,” she laughed. “It was wonderful to see them again, out and about, with VISTE’s help.”

Bonnie’s father still lives in Lakeland. Her mother passed on a few years ago at the age of 82, after a life well lived. Bonnie makes donations to VISTE in memory of her mother, and her volunteer work is a living legacy. Her mother’s fun, loving, and “unselfish personality” lives on in Bonnie’s work, to the benefit of VISTE’s frail and elderly clients. Thank you, Bonnie, to you and your family, for all you do for VISTE!!

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