If a Washington group's efforts are successful, millions of the nation's older Americans who live alone will not celebrate Thanksgiving by themselves.
Through a combination of donated spot announcements on radio and National Football League-sponsored televised messages, Americans have been urged to "open your heart and your home on Thanksgiving Day to an older American who would otherwise spend the holiday alone."
Those who don't know such an older person are asked to "contact a local church or synagogue and ask them how you can help," according to Carmella LaSpada, founder of the group called "No Greater Love." Their office, at 1750 New York Ave. was donated by the AFL-CIO.
Houses of worship have been informed of the program in No Greater Love pamphlets distributed inside newsletters of National Interfaith Coalition on Aging and B'nai B'rith. Idea sheets in the pamphlet suggest hosting Thanksgiving dinners.
"Those who respond to the broadcasts by calling (their church or snyagogue) to offer help are encouraged to provide food or transportation" for the dinners, LaSpada said.
This is No Greater Love's 13th year of acticity here. There will be a dinner for 500 people Thursday at Georgetown University, sponsored by the D.C. Recreation Department, the Office on Aging, the American Association of Retired Persons and the university.
Mayor Walter E. Washington "has come every year for the last 10 years" to the annual dinner, said LaSpada, "and we expect him to deliver our Thanksgiving salute again this year."
Two years ago, the program began national promotions under the banner of the National Salute to Older Americans. The board named Betty Ford its honorary patron, and 14 senior citizens were dinner guests of President and Mrs. Ford as part of the salute.
The aim of the program, LaSpada said, is to do more than "recognize our living heritage." It is hoped that friendships will form and "people will visit throughout the year."
"We want to encourage that one-to-one basis," she continued. "So God will only know how many respond. Eighty per cent say they personally know an older person. It's the 20 per cent who call their church or synagogue and ask how they can help."
After Thanksgiving last year, LaSpada got a call from a woman who said she hadn't heard from her only living relative, a nephew, in years. He heard about the program, remembered her an invited her to Thanksgiving dinner, she said.
No Greater Love is financed through public donations, the National Football League charities and the AFL-CIO.