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My Next Adventure with Meals on Wheels
By James Gunn, Programs & Aging Initiatives Assistant
July 13, 2017
As a Program Assistant for the past two years with Citymeals, I have served as a connection point for the 30 meal providers we partner with. On any given day, I could visit a senior center to ensure our programs are being implemented properly, make referrals for seniors looking to receive meals, and work alongside our dedicated volunteers.
My job gave me the opportunity to engage with diverse communities including the people we serve and the people who ensure our recipients never go a day without a meal. As I depart for my new job with Nassau County Meals on Wheels, I will take the many lessons, challenges and triumphs with me into my next job.
Before joining Citymeals, I had worked at AARP and was familiar with the vast needs of seniors across the country. The one thing in particular that attracted me to Citymeals was the motto of “Serving Good Daily.” It’s a simple concept to serve those in your neighborhood, but to get to be a part of it every day that was something I wanted to be part of.
My time at Citymeals has been an incredible learning experience that brought me moments of pride as well as challenges that taught me why our organization is so important. I am most proud of our work to involve different community agencies in our mission, including the New York Police Department. We have partnered with a number of precincts, engaging officers – like my twin brother, a patrolman in Washington Heights – as volunteers who delivered hundreds of shelf-stable boxes for the holidays. Being able to facilitate interaction between NYPD officers and our seniors brought great joy to both parties and strengthened bonds in neighborhoods across the city.
One of the biggest challenges was when I’d leave a senior’s home after visiting and hearing their story. Many of our meal recipients want so desperately to have someone to talk to and share their lives with; not being able to do that for all of them was frustrating.
I’ll never forget people like 88-year-old Frida, a Holocaust survivor. She used to trek to the senior center on East 7th Street to get a meal during the week. I was able to refer her to the local case management agency to begin the process to receive home-delivered meals. This interaction made me realize how strong our city’s senior population is, but also that there are so many more individuals that could benefit from support such as meals on wheels. And I also realized that we have unbelievably committed delivery staff across the city who are spending that extra minute with every senior on their route, delivering a meal with a smile and providing comfort.
More than anything, I learned it takes a village to ensure that a meal gets to the door. From the intake worker to get the senior started on the program, to the meal deliverer or volunteer, and the center staff following up if the senior is not home, there are so many individuals invested in making sure one person gets a meal and a friendly visit.