Judy and Arlene
Judy, right, with 87-year-old Citymeals recipient Arlene.

Nearly a decade ago, Judy read about Citymeals’ Friendly Visiting program in the Canarsie newspaper. She instantly knew she had to get involved. “When I see people who are lonely and waiting for a knock at the door or a phone call, it drives me to check on them.”

Judy instantly fell in love with the connections she was making. She now visits five of her isolated older neighbors every week. For a 94-year-old man in Midwood, visits with Judy are particularly special. Completely blind, Judy reads him the paper, catching him up on the week’s events, and plays music on her phone. Unable to leave the house, he often talks to Judy about going to Florida so he can feel the warm sand on his feet. Despite his age and immobility, “he still has dreams,” Judy notes.

It’s beyond volunteering to me. It’s helping somebody who needs a ‘hello’ or a hug. That’s what matters.

For 87-year-old Arlene, Judy isn’t just a volunteer, she’s a lifesaver. A few years ago, Arlene was walking to her local library on a dangerously hot and humid day. Mere steps from the doors, she fainted. Suddenly, a kind stranger was helping Arlene to her feet and giving her water. Seeing Arlene was in need, she helped her contact Citymeals on Wheels. Nearly a year later, Arlene was opening her door to greet her new Friendly Visitor. In front of her was the stranger who’d helped her at the library – Judy!

The two have become dear friends since then. Arlene loves sharing memories of her early life, which was filled with adventure, family and friends. And she’s especially thankful for having someone to talk to about grief and loss after losing her beloved husband of 53 years.

For Judy, the ability to connect with someone – to laugh or cry, experience joy or sadness – is the ultimate gift. “It’s beyond volunteering to me. It’s helping somebody who needs a ‘hello’ or a hug. That’s what matters.”