For the elderly in New York who are unable to make their own dinners or even venture outside of the house, a warm holiday meal and some company may be at the top of their wish list this holiday season. On Tuesday, firefighters paid a visit to some of these New Yorkers at an apartment building in Harlem.
They brought festive poinsettias, holiday cards from local schoolchildren, and meal boxes from Citymeals-on-Wheels. This is the fifth year that volunteers from the FDNY have joined the nonprofit organization for Christmas Eve meal deliveries.
“We got to visit some people that are homebound and they seem very happy to get company—happy, shocked,” said firefighter Daniel Glover.
“He almost got a date with an 84-year-old woman, she didn’t want to let him go. It was fun,” said Glover, pointing at his colleague Abel Gonzalez.
The elderly residents received food boxes that contained canned tuna, chicken, milk, and cookies. They also received freshly cooked traditional holiday foods like turkey, yams, and green beans.
“Once these people saw them coming in, they just lit up and warmed up,” said Beth Shapiro, executive director for Citymeals-on-Wheels. “I think most monumental today, we delivered a meal to a woman who is 109 years old, alone, no family, and really has no one to celebrate the holiday with, like so many of our meal recipients.”
Citymeals-on-Wheels is an organization dedicated to feeding and visiting homebound elderly New Yorkers. More than 60 percent of Citymeals recipients are over 80 years old. All recipients are chronically disabled. Some 40 percent rarely or never leave their homes.
In the past year, Citymeals-on-Wheels funded and distributed 2 million meals to 17,000 elderly New Yorkers in the five boroughs. This holiday season, the organization funded more than 23,000 holiday meals.
Yi Yang is a special correspondent in New York.