Louise volunteered as a prep cook in New York soup kitchens for years, but felt something was missing. She enjoyed making sandwiches and fruit salad with her fellow volunteers, but never saw or interacted with the clients.
In 2007, she started volunteering for Citymeals on Wheels. She was attracted to the idea of visiting New Yorkers who were isolated by illness or age. The first day was slushy and cold. As she trudged through the snow and up five flights of stairs to deliver a meal, she didn’t know what to expect. The client was a white-haired woman who struggled to the door on two canes. She said she was delighted to meet Louise and thanked me for being there. She asked Louise to open her window; she didn’t have the strength. “I knew I was truly helping. I was hooked,” Louise says.
I’m helping clients feel less isolated, but they are helping me as much, if not more.
“I have a personal commitment to helping others, and enjoy being part of the social fabric of my beloved, complicated, sometimes isolating city. I’ve made my living as a journalist writing about the food business, and now working in it. Giving back through food makes perfect sense.”
Louise volunteers for Citymeals at the Carter Burden Center on the Upper East Side, right near where her grandmother lived into her 90s. She was crippled with arthritis and found it difficult to leave her apartment. She had resources and family to ensure she was not alone and hungry. Louise likes that she can help others in her neighborhood, help that her grandmother was privileged not to need.
Since she began delivering meals, Louise has established wonderful friendships with several clients. She calls them her “faves.” One is Gabe, a widower in his late 80s, who has lived in the same apartment for 60 years. They chat about the old neighborhood, the news, and how it’s better not to complain about our aches and pains. Gabe and Louise send each other holiday cards, and Louise calls Gabe on those rare Saturdays when she has to miss a visit, or he is away. Other “faves” include a retired nurse who rescues cats and an ex-Playboy Bunny who calls her “honey.”
Although rich in friends, Louise lives alone and her immediate family lives out West. “I feel selfish about Citymeals on Wheels. I’m helping clients feel less isolated, but they are helping me as much, if not more,” she says.