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'I am blessed': Rosa Wims finds a way to spread her Thanksgiving cheer during pandemic

Beth Adams/WXXI News

Like last year, Rosa Wims isn't hosting her annual Thanksgiving gathering because of COVID-19.

But the soon-to-be 99-year-old still wants to make sure her neighbors have a hot meal to mark the holiday.

Wims handed out frozen turkey dinners Thursday morning at the Montgomery Neighborhood Center on Cady Street in Corn Hill.

She said she's grateful that Foodlink and others in the community are continuing the tradition she started in the 1970s on Jefferson Avenue. Back then, it was just a small gathering.

"You don't keep it just because you started it," she said. "You pass it on and everybody improves on it, you see? It grows."

2020 was the first time in more than 35 years that Wims' Thanksgiving event had to be canceled.

"It's really special to be back again, together with Rosa," said Julia Tedesco, Foodlink's president and CEO.

Foodlink prepared 200 Thanksgiving meals to distribute at the center on Thursday. 

Tedesco said the idea was to make sure everyone who wanted a meal was fed in a way that prioritized their safety.

Wims, dressed in an embroidered bright yellow jacket and smiling brightly, greeted several women who were at the center for a senior program.

Credit Beth Adams/WXXI News

When asked what she is grateful for this Thanksgiving, she said she's happy to be alive.                                  

"How many people get to be 90-some years old, like I am? I am blessed. I'm telling you, I'm as happy as a little bird on a limb," she said, with a laugh.

Her 99th birthday is Dec. 23.

Wims has long been known in Rochester for her generosity and advocacy for public health. She was a licensed practical nurse and founded the Faith Community Health Awareness Center on Genesee Street, later renamed in her honor as the Rosa Wims Family Wellness Center.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.