December 29, 2015

The holidays can be especially lonely for homebound elderly New Yorkers, but this year Citymeals provided 57,616 festive meals and warm companionship to help remind our older neighbors they haven’t been forgotten on Christmas.

Santa dispatched some of his youngest helpers to bring holiday cheer to frail aged New Yorkers on Christmas Eve. A group of local school children gathered at The Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center where they created holiday cards then headed out with PIX 11 to deliver Season’s Greetings meal boxes – each containing three nonperishable meals – to our recipients. Citymeals delivered 16,637 of these packages (a total of 49,911 meals) in advance of Christmas so our recipients would be nourished when some of our centers are closed for the holidays.

The children visited 77-year-old Henry who has lived in the same apartment for over 50 years.  Last year he suffered a heart attack, during which he fell and broke his pelvis. They also visited 97-year-old Irene who began receiving meals two years ago after falling and breaking her wrist.

The cards the children designed were just some of the more than 65,000 handmade greeting cards Citymeals delivers each year. Among the volunteers who created holiday cards this year were children from local scout troops and students from both public and private schools.

Then on Christmas Day, Citymeals prepared a total of 7,705 nutritious meals, including 4,700 hand-delivered to our most vulnerable neighbors and 3,005 served at local senior centers for older New Yorkers who were able to leave their homes. Kitchen staff and volunteers arrived at Borinquen Plaza Senior Center in Brooklyn early Christmas morning to prepare a menu of baby back ribs, pernil, arroz con gandules, and mixed vegetables. NBC 4 New York and News 12 Brooklyn captured Citymeals Executive Director Beth Shapiro lending a hand at the center.

After helping cook in Brooklyn, Shapiro traveled to the Carter Burden Center for the Aging in Manhattan where she met Citymeals Board Member Kathleen Turner. The duo packed up meals and set out with volunteers Linda Exman and Marilyn Stetar to deliver nourishment to older residents of the Upper East Side. DNAinfo followed along on the deliveries to recipients like Stanley, a 75-year-old retired detective, who was delighted to receive his meal along with some friendly conversation that morning.

Throughout the city, an army of volunteers also lent a hand on Christmas morning. Exman and Stetar were just two of the nearly 600 volunteers who helped Citymeals prepare and deliver holiday meals for our isolated older neighbors. Exman and Stetar have been delivering meals together on Christmas Day ever since they met ten years ago at a holiday breakfast for professional women approaching retirement.

Shapiro explained, “The isolation our meal recipients experience every day of the year is magnified during the holidays. So many of the older New Yorkers we nourish spend this time of year alone, having only their memories of past holiday gatherings with family and friends to bring them cheer.  But all our generous volunteers and staff spreading holiday joy helped create new and happy memories for years to come.”