Every weekday, approximately 25 volunteers deliver 250 meals to area residents through SAGE Eldercare's Meals on Wheels (MOW) Program, and winter storms and holidays are no exception. Compound the weather concerns with holidays, such as President's weekend, when the Meals on Wheels of Union County in Linden, which supplies the meals to SAGE, is closed on both Friday and Monday.
"While all of New Jersey was anticipating the recent nor'easter, there were many local frail, homebound senior citizens and disabled people wondering if they'd get their meals," explains Marianne Kranz, Director of Meals on Wheels, Volunteers and Home Support Services. The day prior to the storm, SAGE volunteers delivered emergency blizzard boxes to all their Meals on Wheels clients. The non-perishable meals which included canned tuna, soup, carrots and hot and cold beverages, took care of the MOW clients on the day when everyone was snowed under. According to Kranz, the day after the blizzard presents a whole new set of issues. "On Thursday, SAGE had to make arrangements to assure that clients receive food while the county Meals on Wheels is closed for President's weekend."
"We have a contingency plan for everything because there are many people depending on us. Unplowed access to the homes, four foot snow banks on the street blocking driveways and a shortage of volunteers to deliver the meals because they cannot get out of their own homes makes this a very challenging, but rewarding job," Kranz says.
Volunteers of all ages, many of them retirees themselves, either trudge through a foot or more of snow or shovel their way to the client's door. While delivering meals, they additionally multi-task by picking up shopping lists as a favor to the Shopping Service volunteer who could not make it the client to pick up the grocery lists.
"We are also lucky to have wonderful volunteers with SUVs who reach out to us on days like this to see if they can help - even if they aren't on the schedule," explains Kranz. SAGE office staff and executives often jump in and personally deliver the meals when there is a shortage of Meals on Wheels volunteers.
"Of course, when a client meets you at the door in tears and continuously says 'God bless you' because they weren't sure you were going to be able to deliver their meal that day, it makes it all worth while," says SAGE Executive Director, Jessica Rosenzweig, after returning from making MOW deliveries.
SAGE's Meals on Wheels was established in 1966 and was one of the first meal delivery programs in New Jersey. In 2009, over 400 SAGE volunteers delivered 58,730 meals to eligible residents in Berkeley Heights, Chatham and Chatham Township, Millburn, Short Hills, Mountainside, New Providence, Springfield and Summit. For more information about the Meals on Wheels program, of if you know someone who could benefit from the service, please contact Marianne Kranz at 908-598-5554 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on programs and services at SAGE Eldercare, visit our website at www.sageeldercare.org.