Citymeals on Wheels has been a valued partner of AHRC New York City programs for over a decade. Each day, the two organizations work together to assist homebound elderly New Yorkers in need of fresh meals in all five boroughs. People supported and AHRC NYC staff members, many from Adult Day Services, volunteer up to three times per week to make these deliveries. This summer, Citymeals thanked these AHRC NYC programs, as well as other organizations supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with a catered luncheon at Citymeals’ new warehouse in the Bronx.
Working Together to Feed Thousands
“A lot of what you do for us we couldn’t do it by ourselves,” Vivienne O’Neill, Citymeals’ Director of Volunteer Programs, told the group. “Of our 25,000 volunteers, who give 80,000 hours of service annually, you guys [people with I/DD and their support staff] are about one-third of that group. That’s how important you are to Citymeals on Wheels.” Vivienne was joined by Sheila Clay, Eloise Jones, and Autrice Wildman in serving food to the volunteers, providing them with gift bags, and encouraging them to enjoy the luncheon as a gesture of appreciation for their dedication to Citymeal’s mission.
Darinka Vlahek, Director of Arts and Community Outreach for ADS, said that the partnership between AHRC NYC and Citymeals is comprehensive.“Citymeals worked closely with Care Coordinators to identify needy seniors around Bushwick, Norfolk Street, and Crown Heights where our packed food could be delivered there,” Darinka explained. “About 50 people from ADS programs deliver food. They get special requests during holidays such as Passover.” In addition, Citymeals was one of AHRC NYC’s most vital partners during the MLK Day of Service, an agency-wide community service initiative that in 2019 centered on combatting hunger in all five boroughs. It will be held again in January 2020.
Sometimes, AHRC NYC volunteers go beyond just delivering food to the elderly. “They have created cards—birthday, get-well-soon cards, and more—for the seniors,” Darinka said. “And they do not deliver perishable items—this is shelf-stable food. It’s some serious commitment.”
These volunteering events provide opportunities for valued social interactions in which volunteers can improve their quality of life. Meaningful social networks and productive roles make a difference for the person as well as the contribution to a collective good. Relationship opportunities are maximized when community members get to know one person at a time, allowing for friendships to develop between volunteers and those they serve.
“A Part of Something Great”
Aissata Diaby, Community Support Professional, has made dozens of Citymeals deliveries accompanying people receiving supports, including Ronald Robinson. “We’re a Without Walls program, so we are able to be more flexible when we are able to deliver meals,” Aissata said. “We love giving the seniors the food—it’s helping out and we love to do things of that nature. It was an exciting time. One of the gentlemen we deliver to is blind and hard of hearing, and Ronald really took to him.”
Enrique Viera from Dorothy and Michael Styler Center said “I’m happy to go to the people’s houses. I get to go up to their houses, knock on the door, bring them food and say hello! It makes me happy! It’s something to do on Thursdays and it feeds people.” Enrique’s peer, Hugh Grant, agreed, saying “It makes me feel good because sometimes I get to help people.”
Community Support Professional, Harriet Simmons from Howie Stone Adult Day Center echoed Aissata’s sentiments. “We’ve been doing deliveries for many years. It’s great that they [the people we support] get to have conversations with the people that they are helping. They bring joy with them,” she said. “It helps them really feel like they part of a team and a part of doing something great.”