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It’s 7:00 a.m. and Ruby is in the kitchens of the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center, preparing meals for delivery. Food is made, bags packed and counted — all to guarantee these meals reach the homebound New Yorkers who need them. “It gives me a chance to see where this all begins,” Ruby says. “And to use my cooking skills.”
Ruby has been volunteering with Citymeals on Wheels for nearly two decades. As a native New Yorker and lifelong resident of the East Side, she feels it’s important to support her community. It’s also how she honors her father’s memory.
A proud man, as Ruby’s father got older, he didn’t want to be a burden to his children. But he struggled to leave his apartment on 62nd Street — a fifth-floor walk-up — and go to the store. The home-delivered meals he received allowed him to keep his dignity and independence. And the volunteers who brought them provided much-needed company when Ruby and her siblings couldn’t be there themselves.
After his death in 2005, Ruby was inspired to give back — to do for others what kind strangers had done for her father. She called Citymeals and asked how she could get involved. Soon, she was out delivering meals, meeting neighbors who had previously been hidden behind closed doors. As she continued to work with Citymeals, they became familiar faces. Some didn’t say much, just a simple “thank you,” but others would invite her inside for a cup of coffee and a chat. In each of them, she saw her dad.
Though she’d lived here her whole life, she got to know her neighborhood even better and explore other parts of the city. It was a lot of walking. “It wasn’t meals on wheels, it was meals on foot!” she jokes.
The great thing about volunteering is that there are so many opportunities to help. There’s always something you can do.
Ruby is now retired, but that just means she has more time to volunteer. A bad knee keeps her from making too many deliveries on foot, but she’s found other ways to help. In addition to working in the kitchen of her local senior center, Ruby also volunteers in their offices. As she likes to say, “Everybody can do something.”
For Ruby, Citymeals is about more than just a meal. It’s about neighbors helping neighbors and building a tight-knit community. “I could be on the other side of the door one day,” says Ruby, “and I hope somebody would be there to help me too.”