December 11, 2014
Citymeals-on-Wheels marked an extraordinary milestone this morning as Co-Founder and Board Chair Gael Greene, founding Executive Director Marcia Stein and current Executive Director Beth Shapiro delivered our 50 millionth meal. Chef Daniel Boulud and Anne E. Cohen, Co-Presidents of the Board, also attended the pre-delivery celebration – which included the presentation of proclamations from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer – at The Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The center was chosen because its meal recipients were featured in the 1981 article Greene read that inspired her to start Citymeals.
Following the ceremony, Greene, Stein and Shapiro set out from Stanley Isaacs to deliver the 50 millionth meal to 70-year-old Florence, a Brooklyn-born former New York City public school teacher. A meal recipient for more than 10 years, Florence suffers with severe scoliosis and a displaced pelvis.
In November 1981, Greene, restaurant critic for New York magazine at the time, read a news article reporting that homebound elderly New Yorkers would not receive meal deliveries on weekends and holidays. Outraged, she made a series of phone calls to friends in the food world, including renowned chef James Beard. Together, they raised $35,000 – money they wanted to spend specifically on meals for their most vulnerable neighbors. Greene contacted Department for the Aging Commissioner Janet Sainer, who quickly turned the funds into Christmas meals for 6,000 frail aged New Yorkers who would otherwise have gone without.
"Thirty-three years ago, I picked up my phone and dialed the Department for the Aging to express outrage that in a city of such abundance, we could not care for our elderly neighbors in need, especially at the holidays," Greene explained.
When asked if she could have imagined Citymeals would reach this milestone, Greene replied, "I didn’t have a clue. All I knew was I couldn’t accept that was the reality of living in New York City. None of this would have been possible without my friends in the food world, including Citymeals Co-Founder, the legendary James Beard, Commissioner Janet Sainer, all of our original donors and those who continue to support us financially and through volunteerism. I sincerely thank everyone who has helped us provide meals and companionship for our invisible neighbors who so desperately want to remain in their homes."
Stein said, "You and I may take for granted the ability to run out in a storm to get some milk and eggs or the chance to spend a holiday with family and friends, but these are luxuries our meal recipients don’t have. We are proud that Citymeals and the New York City Department for the Aging established one of the first, and most successful, public/private partnerships in the nation. Together, we have helped combat malnutrition, isolation and loneliness for so many in need."
Added Shapiro, "Today we celebrate 50 million knocks on the door, 50 million smiles and 50 million times frail aged New Yorkers have felt the comfort of knowing they are not alone. Citymeals and those we serve owe a tremendous thank you to both Gael and Marcia. These two dedicated women served at the forefront of Citymeals for decades, ensuring that the men and women who built our great city would have sustenance through lonely weekends and holidays and emergencies like blackouts, snowstorms and hurricanes that would leave anyone feeling helpless. Their dedication and the work they continue to do with Citymeals will never be forgotten."
In a Proclamation declaring December 11, 2014 "Citymeals-on-Wheels Day," Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote, "Our job in the fight against hunger won’t be done until everyone in our city has enough to eat, and I am thrilled to join today in recognizing Citymeals-on-Wheels’ staff and more than 19,000 dedicated volunteers for their unwavering efforts to move us closer towards this goal with each meal they deliver."
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer also issued a Proclamation declaring today "Citymeals-on-Wheels Appreciation Day" in the Borough of Manhattan.
See more photos from the event on our Facebook page.
View press coverage from the event on NBC 4 New York, New York Daily News and 1010 WINS.