Homebound New Yorkers Receive Hot Meal, Holiday Cheer

NY 1 - December 25, 2009

by Tara Lynn Wagner

Thousands of shut-in New Yorkers Thursday received a gift of holiday cheer delivered straight to their doors - compliments of Citymeals-on-Wheels and city firefighters. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

Santa was not the only guy making deliveries on Christmas Eve.

Three New York City firefighters knocked on doors across East Harlem, helping bring holiday meals and human contact to thousands of senior citizens, many of them too frail to venture outside.

Citymeals-on-Wheels Executive Director Marcia Stein says the organization delivers over two-million meals a year, but during the holidays, the visit is especially important.

"Holidays can be an especially lonely time if you are sitting by yourself and remembering all the people that used to be there around the table, around the tree," she said. "Today's there is going to be a firefighter at the door with a present, with some flowers."

In addition to a hot helping of lasagna, the seniors were also handed holiday cards, handmade by thousands of city school children.

"They're beautiful," said food recipient Leola Cooper. "I appreciate it."

"What a blessing that you take time out to come see us," said meal recipient Mamie Kibler Williams. "It's really a blessing and I'm grateful. We're grateful to you."

Stein says the greetings are a special touch that help make to the season bright well into the new year.

"I see these cards, snowmen and Christmas trees and greetings, loving words, up on refrigerators all over town when I go to visit our elderly neighbors," she said.

While the recipients clearly appreciate the food and friendly faces, the firefighters say they too are grateful to be able to share the holiday with someone who might otherwise have spent it hungry or alone.

"Just seeing the smiles on their faces up there is great and they do greatly appreciate it," said firefighter John Sullivan of Engine 54, Ladder 43.

"I just get the joy and satisfaction of giving back to the community which I serve," said firefighter Aswad Hutchins of Engine 53, Ladder 43. "That's what I get, just a humbling experience."

The cost of providing one meal for a homebound senior is just $6.42. Those who would like to make a donation, 100 percent of which goes directly to the cost of food, should visit the organization's website at CityMeals.org.