Every year in March, the kitchen at SAGE Eldercare in Summit is a whirlwind of activity as volunteers, local officials, police and fire chiefs, and town administrators, gather to deliver meals to seniors in surrounding communities.This partnership, which occurs almost every week day during March, is part of the Meals On Wheels Association of America’s annual campaign, “March For Meals” and “Mayors For Meals,” which is Wednesday, March 20.The program is intended to give community representative an opportunity to meet seniors residing in their towns that rely on the meals and daily visit for support.
SAGE’s MOW program, which was established in 1966, is the oldest program in New Jersey. People who are frail, homebound or disabled are eligible for the service. This includes those who are recuperating from an illness, those who are mentally or physically impaired, those without family or friends to shop for them, or those requiring a special diet. There are no financial restrictions.
For many homebound seniors, the friendly visit from a MOW volunteer may be the only contact they have with someone that day. About fifteen times a year, SAGE has to turn to the police to do welfare checks on clients who don’t respond, and about five times a year, a SAGE MOW volunteer calls 911 when finding a client in need of immediate medical assistance. After Superstorm Sandy, volunteers found a number of people were using their stove tops and ovens for heat after they had lost power. Local fire departments were quick to respond.
In 2012, approximately 600 SAGE volunteers delivered 36,000 meals to 250 clients in Union County (Berkeley Heights, Mountainside, New Providence, Springfield and Summit), Essex County (Millburn and Short Hills) and Morris County (Chatham and Madison). Each weekday, 20-30 volunteers are assigned 14 routes and drive a total of about 200 miles to deliver approximately 150 meals to 120 clients in the three counties.
SAGE delivers meals Monday through Friday and the delivery can be scheduled for short-term needs or for an indefinite period. Currently, people who need weekend meals receive them on Fridays. For more information about the MOW program, to volunteer to deliver meals, or if you know someone who could benefit from the service, please call 908.273.5554, email contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sageeldercare.org.