, Salem, MA

Local News

January 9, 2014

More than just a meal

Program's drivers brave ice, snow, bitter cold to feed elderly


Even if it’s just a brief conversation, that’s often a moment their housebound clients look forward to, Wynn says. In extreme weather, Meals on Wheels also acts as an informal well-being check.

“I’ve called 911 on occasion,” Webster says. “I found a man lying on the floor once. It’s a shame. A lot of families have just forgotten about these people. ... If someone’s not home, we make calls right away.”

Christine Phillips, another driver, gets to know her clients. As she approaches a door at a senior apartment complex near Peabody Square, a resident passes by in the hall and warns her, “He’s not in a good mood.”

“He never is,” Phillips laughs as she knocks. She deals with people who come to the door barely dressed, some who have been injured and can’t get up, and one she describes as a “hold your nose” due to hygiene issues. Nevertheless, sometimes she simply knocks, opens the door and walks right in.

When she visits with Barbara Klayman, she gets a warm greeting at the door.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Klayman says. “It’s for people who don’t have the money. It helps them. They can pay a few bills.”

“I look at some of the volunteers who are out there, and I admire them very much, Beverly COA director MaryAnn Holack says.

Making it easier for the drivers in winter weather, however, is a problem not easily solved. The unshoveled walk or driveway is a hazard for a staff that is often nearly as old as the people they serve.

“Weather has certainly had a big impact,” says Linnea Hagberg, the nutritionist for the Massachusetts Senior Nutrition Program, which serves Beverly, Ipswich, Hamilton, Wenham and Topsfield. “But we get the meals out. Our drivers are terrific.”

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