This is a guest post by Beth Shapiro, the Executive Director of Citymeals.
Thirty years ago, Gael Greene and James Beard first learned that government funding to feed our homebound neighbors did not cover weekends and holidays. On Christmas Day of 1981, Citymeals-on-Wheels was born with a wonderful holiday meal delivered to 6,000 elderly neighbors by caring volunteers.
As I enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays in 2011, I am reminded that it is still a most difficult time of year for New York’s 16,500 elderly. The disabilities associated with old age imprison them once the cold air blows in and sidewalks become ice-coated hazards. And being alone at home brings back memories of past holidays filled with family and friends.
Over the years, I’ve visited many frail meal recipients and I am always struck by how truly dependant they are on our help, our kindness and our compassion. I see women and men for whom a meal delivery and a friendly visit are the high points of the day. When food comes to the door, when someone familiar stops in to say hello and check on how things are going, lonely aged people feel reassured…and well-nourished.
My first meal delivery nearly six years ago took me to familiar streets–East 46th Street near Flatbush in Brooklyn, just blocks from where my grandparents lived until I was eight years old. I met Mamie, too afraid to go outside even if she could, because the cold wind might knock her down. Her shoes were held together with duct tape, but her smile was as bright as any model’s on the cover of a fashion magazine.
Just last week, I met Dorothy. At 91 she could barely hear as I yelled, “hello”, close to her ear. I helped carry her meal to her small tidy kitchen as it’s awkward for her to navigate with a walker. I didn’t stay long, but she grabbed my hand tightly as I left, simply smiling and closing her eyes for a moment. The memory of her grasp reminds me how lucky we are to have friends like you to help us bring meals to her door each day.
And because of people like you, this year Citymeals will deliver 48,514 meals as part of season’s greetings packages, Meal Center festivities, and home deliveries. This message then is a thank you. From Mamie, Dorothy, and all the others served by your compassion.
Our city’s oldest depend on us…and we depend on good neighbors like you. Thank you for helping us deliver a wonderful holiday meal to lonely neighbors, just like we did 30 years ago…providing a vital lifeline that lasts throughout the year.
From all of us at Citymeals, we wish you a warm and happy holiday season.
Citymeals-on-Wheels provides a continuous lifeline of nutritious food and human company to homebound elderly New Yorkers in need, helping them to live with dignity in their own familiar homes and communities.