Did you know that nearly a fifth of New York City's population is over the age of 65? And did you know that, according to a report from the NYC Department of City Planning in 2010, that number will increase by more than 40% by 2040? That means that, every day, there is a greater and greater portion of our city’s population whose physical condition could result in isolation, decreased mobility and challenges securing regular nutritious meals. In response, New York Cares has focused its resources on supporting organizations that focus on addressing issues affecting seniors and providing a variety of services to this growing population through volunteer-powered programs.
Goddard Riverside Community Center is one such agency and one that we’ve proudly partnered with for three years now. Goddard offers 26 programs providing services to seniors like tenants’ rights workshops, mental health counseling and, meal delivery for homebound seniors. The meal delivery program helps the oldest and most vulnerable seniors, whose physical conditions are such that they cannot leave their homes to get food. On average, Goddard hand-delivers around 3,640 meals per week, putting a sizable dent in a much larger issue. Poor nutrition always results in poor health, and if seniors can't get food, they'll be paying visits to the emergency room, compromising their quality of life and ultimately, living shorter lives.
"The real growth has been in the number of routes we are able to do,” noted Karlene Clarke, Program Director of Home Delivered Meals. “Three years ago, we started with three routes delivering 90 meals and now are beginning our sixth route bringing the total to around 160 meals per day. This growth has been fueled, in large part, by volunteers.”
New York Cares volunteer Sally Ann Schneider (pictured above) helps deliver meals every week with Goddard. Sally Ann grew up in a house where volunteering was, "just a part of life," and has been volunteering with New York Cares for over two years.
"I mean, it's just so easy–and I've volunteered with all sorts of organizations–but no one does it like New York Cares!" She is able to recount story after story about the seniors she works with, such as the condition of their health, their children - you name it, Sally Ann knows it. Take just one delivery route with Sally Ann, and it becomes apparent that what makes this project so vital is more than the meal; it is the connection between Sally Ann and her clients, which goes far beyond nutrition and meal delivery.
"New York Cares volunteers own their route,” Karlene said. “Take regulars like Sally Ann; they really soften up these clients who can be sort of closed-off. The client's quality of life is dramatically improved because of the relationships volunteers like Sally have with them."
Karlene went on to remark how fortunate the clients in this area are because of New York Cares volunteers, who seem to always take the time to engage on a deeper level. Many of the clients served by Goddard Riverside have complicated medical histories, are on a fixed income, and have outlived most of their family and friends.
"Along with a loss of identity is a feeling of uselessness,” Karlene continued. “Sally Ann and other New York Cares volunteers encourage the clients to stay involved and help to keep them notified about activities or ways they can remain active members of the community."
Because Goddard is closed on Saturdays, their team delivers two meals to each client on Fridays, making it their busiest day. By partnering with New York Cares, Goddard nearly doubled the number of meals they can deliver on Fridays. More volunteers mean the effort gets spread around. Fewer meals to deliver on each route leaves more time for volunteers to develop meaningful relationships with their clients. Goddard Riverside and the volunteers who serve there demonstrate that human connection can be far more nourishing than a meal, and New York Cares volunteers bring both to the front door.