Now in its fourth decade, Meals on Heels prepares and delivers home-cooked meals to our homebound neighbors every Saturday—even during the pandemic.
How It Started
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.
The church forged a partnership with United Neighbors of East Midtown, a well-respected social service agency serving older citizens on the East Side. Fifth Avenue housed the meal program, the agency offered the service to their clients, and the two shared the costs. The ministry was christened the East Side Elderly Tenants Service (EEETS for short).
The meals were simple. Sandwiches, carrot sticks and dessert were prepared and delivered to eight of the agency’s clients. Later renamed Meals on Heels, the program has grown to include 50 recipients from the church and two social service agencies (United Neighbors and the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association).
A core group of dedicated volunteers comes together every Saturday of the year (as well as Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve) to plan and prepare what has become a nutritious, three-course meal. Meals on Heels is now fully self-funded through donations and an annual fundraising dinner.
During the Pandemic
COVID-19 has raised new questions and concerns. How does a meal preparation and delivery program survive in this time of social distancing? How does Meals on Heels implement government guidelines to safeguard volunteers and recipients?
Here is how we have addressed these concerns:
Only 10 volunteers are allowed in Bonnell Hall to prepare and package the meal. All participants must wash their hands for the recommended 20-second minimum before putting on gloves that we provide.
We carefully sanitize all food preparation surfaces before volunteers arrive. Tables for each step in the preparation are positioned around the room to ensure physical distancing of six feet or more. Volunteers work at separate tables.
We have simplified our menus to reduce preparation time. All delivered items must be fully cooked.
Delivery volunteers are greeted in the 55th Street lobby and asked to wait in Kirkland Chapel for their delivery assignments. An instructional flyer outlines the proper delivery process:
• Place the bag at the foot of the recipient’s door.
• Knock and step back six feet or more.
• When the door opens, smile and gesture to the bag, saying, “I’m practicing my social distancing!”
Assignment slips and the bagged meals are distributed one at a time. Volunteers are asked to quickly exit the lobby to eliminate congestion.
We Need Your Help
We usually have enough volunteers to prepare and package the meal. We need your help to deliver.
The time commitment is small. Delivery volunteers by 11:15 am to check in. They are on their way with their assignments by 11:30 and usually finish no later than 1 pm. While many recipients live within walking distance of the church, some deliveries may require volunteers to use public or private transportation.
If you’re available to deliver, please sign up in advance by emailing John Wyatt at [email protected].
Your participation will ensure the continuation of this vital ministry!