September 25, 2011

For three decades, Marcia Stein has made it her mission to make sure that thousands of the city's homebound seniors have a nutritious meal and a little companionship.

Now the head of the Citymeals on Wheels program is stepping down.

"The feeling is bittersweet," Stein said Wednesday, "but there is great satisfaction in knowing that over the years, we've delivered nearly 45 million meals to tens of thousands of New Yorkers at times when they would have otherwise been alone and hungry."

Stein will continue to serve on the board of directors. Next month she will start teaching a course on managing nonprofits at Columbia University.

Beth Shapiro, the charity's current Associate Executive Director, is to take over the top post on September 6.

Citymeals started in 1981 after famed restaurant critic Gael Greene and renowned chef James Beard learned that homebound elderly New Yorkers were going without food on weekends and holidays when city-funded senior centers were closed.

Together with cook book author Barbara Kafka, Greene and Beard raised $35,000. Greene then called the city's Department for the Aging and donated the funds with the stipulation that all of it had to be used to buy food.

That phone call would be the start of a program that has become one of the city's most vital resources.

Last year alone, Citymeals provided 2 million meals for nearly 17,000 homebound seniors citywide. Stein is credited with several program milestones including encouraging ethnically-diverse meals and swelling the ranks to more than 1,500 volunteers who spend a total of 62,000 hours visiting and delivering meals to the city's elderly residents.

Of all her accomplishments, Stein is most proud of the "generous spirit" of her fellow New Yorkers.

"Every single weekend, every single holiday, whether there's a blackout or it's 9/11 or there's a blizzard, our frail elderly neighbors have had something to eat and peace of mind every single day," she said.

But Mayor Bloomberg said Stein deserved some of the credit.

"[Citymeals] is an incredible resource for so many and we have Marcia's inspirational leadership to thank for [it]."