The Citymeals Blog

Food for Though
Jewel, Citymeals recipient

Black History Today

Black History Month is a celebration — not just of the past, but of living history, too. As February comes to an end, Citymeals is looking at the lifelong accomplishments of our Black recipients, who continue to be a vital part of the city we all call home, even as they get older and enter a new stage of life.

Despite difficult mobility, 82-year-old Dorothy remains an active member of her church community, helping to organize fundraisers and events over the phone from her kitchen table. “That’s my calling — to help,” she says.

Dorothy, Citymeals recipient

Originally from a small town outside of Birmingham, Alabama, Dorothy moved to New York in the summer of 1959 with dreams of becoming a fashion designer. She quickly got a job as a seamstress, working as one for years until the arthritis in her fingers forced her to retire.

A wife, mother and grandmother, Dorothy has been volunteering at her church’s food pantry for the past 30 years. As someone who now receives meals from Citymeals, it only makes her sympathize more with the people she helps. “I put myself in that person’s shoes,” says Dorothy, describing the people who wait in line for the pantry to open twice a week. “They wouldn’t be out there in the rain and snow if they didn’t have to be.” Dorothy was presented with the President’s Volunteer Service Award by President Obama for over one thousand hours of community service.

Kenneth, Citymeals recipient.

As a young man, 74-year-old Kenneth enlisted in the United States Air Force. He served for four years, stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Navy Base in Thailand during the Vietnam War. He returned home to New York in 1974 and got a job with the MTA. He started as a conductor, the person who opens and closes the train doors, before becoming a “motor man,” the person who drives the train. By the time he retired in 2006, Kenneth was a yard supervisor.

Kenneth has had a series of strokes that make it difficult for him to leave his apartment alone. He’s been receiving home-delivered meals for the past year, after being hospitalized due to complications from Covid-19. “I worked hard my whole life,” he says, “now I take it easy.” 

Jewel worked as a nurse’s assistant at Bronx Lebanon Hospital for over three decades, mostly in the pediatric unit. As a single mother who once struggled with addiction, Jewel’s life wasn’t the easiest. “I always say, I’m a strong woman because I’ve dealt with this all in my lifetime,” she says. In 2001, Jewel had her first stroke. It left her with vertigo so severe, she had trouble walking unaided. After three decades working as a nurse, she was forced to retire. “I miss it, though — the babies and the children,” she says.

At 78 years old, Jewel rarely leaves her apartment in the Bronx. Though she concedes that old age comes with its own problems, Jewel doesn’t like to complain. “I don’t even feel the age I am,” she says. Jewel takes every day as a gift, especially since there were so many times when her life could have ended differently. If she’d never beaten addiction, she wouldn’t be where she is now — a retired nurse, a mother, a grandmother. Someone she can be proud of.

Meal recipients like Dorothy, Kenneth and Jewel have so much to offer to their friends, families and community — life experience, perspective and endurance. After their years of hard work, it’s time for us to match their efforts, providing the meals and connection that allow them to remain in their own homes and neighborhoods, as examples to the next generation of New Yorkers.

Food For Thought