Meals on Heels began in 1986, when three of our Deacons discovered that a large number of homebound, elderly neighbors of the church were receiving Meals on Wheels Monday through Friday, but nothing at all on the weekends. They immediately decided that this church, and particularly the Deacons, could do something to help.
So they started preparing a hot meal and delivering it to some of these neighbors. The names, addresses and contact information for these seniors came from United Neighbors of East Midtown, a well-respected social service agency working daily on the needs of older citizens on the east side (and, more recently, Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association).
The program caught on and grew, so that now we are preparing and delivering meals to between 30 and 40 homebound elderly neighbors every Saturday of the year. We also prepare a special feast for them on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. We support ourselves through our annual benefit dinner and show, and don't take any funds from the church's budget.
Here's how it works: At 9:30 on Saturday mornings, we gather in Bonnell Hall. There is a rotating list of volunteer coordinators, and a rotating list of volunteer chefs. The coordinator's job is to welcome volunteers; assign them to tasks (washing lettuce for salads, chopping, grating, slicing, etc.); and designate someone to deliver to each person on our recipient list. The chef, meanwhile, has prepared a menu for the day, done the shopping and brought the food.
This is not as easy as it may sound. The chef has a budget—he or she can spend no more than $130 on the food purchases. So we don't do a whole lot of lobster or steak meals. But we do great things with fish, meat loaf, chicken and pasta, and prepare terrific salads and fabulous desserts.
When the meal is cooked and ready, it is placed in eight-inch aluminum dishes and covered with insulated lids. There is also a small bag containing snacks (a selection of crackers, tin of tuna fish, mixed fruit, cranberry juice). All of this is placed in a big brown bag with handles. But not just an ordinary big brown bag—each has been decorated in a distinctive, welcoming way by our arts and crafts team.
Then the meals go out—to somewhere between 60th and 14th Street, Madison and First Avenue. And we begin our clean-up.
One of the things that make this all so worthwhile is the notes we get from our recipients. They tell us: "It was like a meal I used to make when I was able to cook," or "You can't imagine how much I look forward to Saturday mornings!"
If you would like to be part of this rewarding ministry, contact me—Bob Brennan—at [email protected].