Citymeals-on-Wheels

24 May

What: Delivering food to home-bound seniors

Where: Encore Community Center, Theater District, through Street Project

When: Saturday, 10am-12:30pm

Citymeals-on-Wheels is a non-profit organization that provides many services to home-bound seniors throughout the five boroughs of New York. According to their website, Citymeals “funds 30 community-based agencies that bring weekend, holiday and emergency meals to home-bound elderly New Yorkers who can no longer shop or cook for themselves.” Signing up through Street Project, I was able to volunteer at one of those 30 agencies, the Encore Community Services Center in the theater district.  You’ll be told to arrive at 10am or earlier to ensure that you won’t get left behind when everyone sets out to deliver; when I volunteered they were running a late, but I heard its rare, so I suggest you heed the warning and get there on time.  You’ll sign in with your friendly project leader and wait to be given a delivery route for you and a partner. There is one hot meal, and two cold entrees that can be eaten later in the day; everything is packaged, counted, and packed for transport beforehand. Also, it could be my affinity for TV dinners and airplane food, or the fact that I didn’t have breakfast, but everything looked and smelled delicious. But I digress…

You’ll be given a route with about 7-12 stops, all within a 10 block radius, so you won’t need to get on a subway. The food is transported in hot/cold packs on a rolling luggage cart; I have an aversion to these, especially in Times Square, so I let my partner pull the food through the throngs of tourists. Thanks, Partner. We had a short list, 7 seniors, 4 of which resided in the same building. All of the meals we delivered were received with generous thanks. Some wanted to chat for a little while, just about the weather or DTV switch, while others took their food with a thankful nod and closed the door. Both reactions are understandable: on the one hand, these people are living alone and can’t really go anywhere by themselves, so they’re happy to have company if only for a few minutes. On the other hand, some people may feel ashamed that they need to have food delivered to them because they can’t get it themselves. Just something to think about if you do this project. Our delivery took about an hour; when you’re all done, you’ll bring the empty packs back to Encore and sign out. Other things to know:

-This may be obvious, but I’m saying it anyway: wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather-this is a rain or shine activity. People gotta eat, even in the rain!

-Citymeals offers other volunteer opportunities that aim to help home-bound seniors, such as phone chat, letter writing, and friendly visiting, all with varying time commitments. Check out their website for more information. You can also email Encore Community Services, if you’re interested in volunteering directly with them; they have many programs for seniors, including lunch service during the week  at 11 & 1230.

-I was pleasantly surprised with the crowd Street Project attracted. True to their website, it was a good mix of  male and female young professionals. You’ll have an opportunity to meet people before going to deliver, and get to know your partner (mine was Ori, orignally from Israel, now a PhD student here in New York-thanks for pulling the food, Ori). I’m looking forward to future projects with Street Project, which are mostly on Saturdays and Sundays.

-This is a great activity to do with a friend or two, or even, on a date. I know it sounds weird, and I’m not sure if I should be advocating dating on a volunteer project, but it just seemed like a nice way to get to know someone while working together to get the meals delivered. Or you can just go out to dinner…that works too.

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