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This year, the turkey dinner is delivered to those in need

For Daoud Walker, the meal was the latest in a string of good deeds that have come from an organization that has given him so much in his short time with them.

The 35-year-old Walker, a client at Sound Community Services in New London, which assists individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders, will graduate from the New London Adult Education program in January, earning his high school diploma.

He is living in one of Sound’s residential programs but will be moving into his own apartment in New London on Dec. 1.

“Here I am four months later and I’ve taken care of all the goals I set out to accomplish,” Walker said Tuesday. “I did all I wanted to do. That’s a first for me.”

Walker was among the 150 clients who Sound delivered Thanksgiving meals to this week in lieu of its annual holiday gathering, which had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The organization hasn’t skipped the event in the 15 years that Phil Steffens has worked there, so this year’s meal, while different, was about being consistent.

“It’s more than giving food,” said Steffens, who organized this year’s event. "It’s an affirmation that we care about them, that we’re looking after them.”

For Walker, the care goes beyond a Thanksgiving meal, which he couldn’t wait to “get into,” especially the pumpkin pie. Sound has helped him get his life back together. Staff there have ensured he’s gotten to school on time, kept on top of his doctor’s appointments, provided counseling and socialization, taught him to make a budget and most recently helped him secure housing, a task that was proving nearly impossible, Walker said, given his criminal background.

Dave Pfeiffer, his social worker, went with him to interview with the landlord for his new place, serving as his advocate for all he’s accomplished in the past couple of months.

“I got to tell him the next morning he got the place,” Pfeiffer said. “He was so happy.”

After picking up his meal Tuesday outside of Ivy’s Simply Homemade in Waterford, Walker said he was planning to help deliver meals to Sound’s other clients. “I want to pay it back big time,” he said.

The meals were prepared by Ivy Mellow, who owns the business, which does catering and sells prepared meals. Mellow said she was happy to support Sound’s efforts as a way to give back to the community, but also was grateful that the organization chose to support her small, locally owned business, which has struggled during the pandemic; she said she lost all her catering business this year, given many events were canceled.

“It helped us get through the next couple of weeks,” she said.

The pandemic has caused organizations like Sound to alter the way they do business and that’s taken a toll on those who rely on their services, said Jasmina Andino, another of Sound’s clients.

Andino, 38, said employees there continue to check in on her — doing “drive-bys,” as she calls them, past her apartment — and facilitating virtual events such as Bingo.

During the holidays, Andino said she often feels more depressed.

“Something like this makes me feel like I’m part of the holiday celebrations,” she said.

j.bergman@theday.com

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