Make a Senior Smile collecting for SAGE’s Meals on Wheels Participants

(above) Sutton Carpenter. This is the third consecutive year that The Carpenter family ran the Make a Senior Smile drive from Summit, NJ. Courtesy photo

An interview with Sutton Carpenter

by Ann Beardsley

Sutton Carpenter is in his second-year managing Make a Senior Smile, having taken over the reins from his older brother, Rowan, who initiated the project three years ago. They began the effort to make a positive impact on the lives of our senior population who were secluded during the pandemic. Creating special care packages with donated items, Sutton utilizes SAGE’s Meals on Wheels network to distribute the packages for Valentine’s Day. He spoke with us regarding the project this year.

Q:  Why is the project important to you?

A: When we started Make a Senior Smile, a lot of people were stuck at home because of the pandemic. Now that the pandemic is pretty much over, things have finally gotten back to normal for most of us, but for many seniors, they still aren’t able to get out much and might go several days without seeing or talking to anyone other than the person who brings them their Meals on Wheels. That’s why we feel it’s important to let our seniors know that somebody is thinking of them. Hopefully the care packages that we put together will brighten their day a little and make them feel less lonely. 

Q: How much time does the project require in total?

A: Every time we do a donation drive, it takes a few hours to organize the donated items and wrap them up into care packages. We usually do this for a few days until we have enough bags to load up the trunk and deliver them to SAGE. If the donations keep coming in, then we do it all over until the car is full again, so it can take a while. We also spend time putting out fliers and posts on social media to let people know about the drive. And we try to post lots of photos because people like to see how their donations are being used. 

Q: Does the community assist you and, if so, how?

A: Yes, we definitely could not do Make a Senior Smile without the help we get from our community. Friends, neighbors, students, people we know and lots of people we’ve never met before, all pitch in to help. Last year we also received donations from local organizations like the Summit Lions Club, who donated several big bags of candy, and the employees from Restoration Hardware at the Short Hills Mall, who dropped off some homemade cards. We really can’t do this by ourselves, so we’re always grateful for any help we get!

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