It's a Rochester tradition that's over 30 years in the making. Mama Rosa's "Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner” is usually held on Veteran's Day because most kids have off from school and are able to get a free thanksgiving meal.
Mama Rosa, 89, almost hung up her oven mitts for good last year, but says she's back in the place she belongs---- in the community.
What started in a store front on Jefferson Avenue 30 years ago has evolved into this.
"I do it because they need it. There's somebody that needs it,” Rosa Wims said.
"Mama Rosa,” says she does this to keep her young.
"I’ve done it all along. It's something that's really helpful, it’s needed. I love the community, that's where my bond is, it's in the community,” Wims said.
Mama Rosa was the first African-American nurse's aide at Rochester General Hospital. She later went on to become a licensed nurse. At Friday’s "Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner” Rosa invited first year residents from the U of R to help serve meals.
"This has been a great opportunity to see the context in which a lot of our patients live in, to understand a lot of different ways we can help them out and take care of them as whole people, not just their medical needs but a lot of their other needs as well,” Sophia Purekal, a resident doctor at U of R said.
Anne Weitzel gets the call from Mama Rosa every year to help.
"She’s a wonderful, wonderful person role model and a very community oriented person,” Weitzel said.
Weitzel taught nursing students at SUNY Brockport for many years. Every year she brought her students with her to help.
"One of the things I think our students learned the most from Rosa is the dignity of the people here and how they were not so very different than the students were, they just had a few different issues,” Weitzel said.
Every year Foodlink donates the food that serves nearly 500 people at the Montgomery Neighborhood Center on Cady Street. Foodlink wants the tradition to continue even if Mama Rosa steps down one day... although... that doesn't seem like it'll be soon.
"She’s a community hero. She's been doing everything for the community for as long as she's been around. She’s never let age or illnesses stop her, I think she's an inspiration for everyone,” Terra Keller of Foodlink said.
For Mama Rosa, giving back to the community is what makes her happy.