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A Safety Net for Seniors

Area Organizations Collaborate to Deliver Kosher Meals on Wheels

SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LEDGER

LONGMEADOW – For the past 20 years Greater Springfield Senior Services, Inc. (GSSSI) has been teaming up with JGS Lifecare (JGS) and the Springfield Jewish Community Center to answer one of the fundamental needs of our seniors, the need for kosher nutritious meals delivered to their home.  

Blanche White and Elvis Grant

This program, Meals-on-Wheels, is a federally-funded national program, administered locally by GSSS, to deliver well-balanced, lunchtime meals to frail, homebound individuals who are at least
60 years of age.

These kosher home-delivered meals are available Monday through Friday to seniors who maintain a kosher diet, who live in Springfield and Longmeadow and are homebound and meet the eligibility criteria. In addition, a community kosher lunch is offered each weekday at the “J”.

For many seniors it can be difficult to shop or prepare a meal due to physical or emotional disability, lack of transportation, family members unavailable during the day or insufficient funds to purchase food. Kosher Meals on Wheels addresses these obstacles and senior isolation by bringing the food to their home. 

How does this program work? Mary Jenewin-Caplin, who serves as area agency on aging director of GSSS, and Susan Kimball Halpern, vice president of development and communications at JGS decided to “follow the food” and create this pictorial essay of the program. These pictures help highlight the special collaboration and people that make this important service possible, and the impact that this program is having on the lives of our seniors.  

Emelene St. Amand

The meals delivered are the same as those offered to the residents at the Leavitt Family Jewish Home, the skilled nursing facility at JGS Lifecare. On Aug. 29, in addition to preparing lunch for 180 residents, Blanche White and Elvis Grant were preparing stuffed cabbage, navy bean soup, Italian mixed vegetables, wheat bread, congo bars and fresh fruit for delivery to the “J”. The stuffed cabbage is a favorite!

The food was prepared, temperatures taken, and pans inserted into insulated food holding cabinets on wheels.  Sharon Ritchie, JGS director of food services, teamed up with Jared Pringle, JGS director of safety/environmental services, to load the food onto the JGS van for transport to the “J.” They unload the food into the rear kitchen entrance of the J next to the Plotkin-Grinspoon Early Childhood Center, just like they do every weekday. 

Sharon and Jared wheeled the food to a bright room with round tables set and decorated for Community Kosher Lunches, because in addition to home delivery, a Community Kosher Lunch is served at the “J”. Emelene St. Amand, JCC meals site manager, placed the hot trays of soup, vegetables and stuffed cabbage into chafing dishes on a buffet table and checked the food’s temperature. This would be repeated a third time before the meal was served. Emelene explained that there were roughly 25 participants in the Community Kosher Lunch program, and 16 were regulars. Some come after working out in the gym at the “J” and others come straight from home or work.  They are a friendly group who enjoy gathering together to share a hot kosher meal.  For those over 60 years of age the meal is offered for free, but a $2 voluntary and confidential donation is encouraged. Guests are welcome for a $3.75 fee. Some enjoy staying after the meal to chat before they go to a pre-arranged card game at the “J”.

Jean Soverow

Jean Soverow has been volunteering for 20 years. On Aug. 29 she helped bag the desserts for the meals on wheels and helping to serve the community kosher lunches.  “This is a wonderful program,” Jean said. “Everyone is together and they have a wonderful time.  And I get to enjoy the food.  The salmon and the stuffed cabbage are my favorites!”

“This is a terrific way to eat kosher. It’s a great service to the community, especially for people who do not cook and want a balanced, nutritious kosher meal,” said David Neigher. “And you get to come to the JCC and enjoy seeing all of the different ages, from young to old….you enjoy a real sense of community.  And sometimes we have guests…Rabbi Wolff will come and talked with us.  We are fortunate to have this program. I enjoy the food and the social interaction and the chance to meet new people. And let’s face it…you can’t buy a cup of coffee for 2 dollars!”

“It is very important…I love the food and the interaction, there is lots of good conversation,” said Richard Engelson. “The kosher meal is cooked by JGS under the supervision of Rev. David Aminia and Sharon Ritchie, who was trained by Tony Dal Zovo. The soup is worth the price of the meal. I wouldn’t miss it.”

Michael Bruce has been delivering for Meals on Wheels to area seniors for the past 8.5 years.  He arrives at the “J” and immediately starts helping prepare the meals on wheels, ladling out the soup and sealing the “to-go” meal trays. He checks his route schedule and then heads out to load up his car.  

Michael Bruce and Francis Levine

Michael is retired from the military. When asked why he enjoys delivering kosher meals to homebound seniors, he said, “After serving in the military I wanted to give back to my community. I gave to my country and I wanted to continue to give back, but this time to the elderly. I am young, but the elderly have lived their lives and they have a lot to teach and share.  I don’t just deliver meals, I visit with them. For some, the only people they see is me and the mailman. These are good folks and they feel like family.”  

There are fifteen homebound elders that Michael visited on August 29th. Halpern and Jenwin-Caplin joined him on two of his deliveries. The first was to Frances Levine. Frances was a resident of Sosin Center for Rehabilitation about a year ago, after having suffered from a fall. Since returning home she has been receiving kosher meals on wheels. “The meals were so helpful during my rehabilitation after I returned home from Sosin, I didn’t want to give them up. They are delicious, and always very hot. I often save the meals for my dinner. The stuffed cabbage reminds me of my mother; we used to make stuffed cabbage together…And Michael is just super-friendly and caring. It is so nice to have someone stop by!”   

Selma and Victor Gorenstein

Their second stop was to the home of Selma and Victor Gorenstein. Selma is 90 and Victor is 92 and they have been married for 70 years! They live in their home with the help of a home health aide. Victor is happy to see Michael.   “The food is good and Michael is a wonderful delivery man,” said Victor. “My wife enjoys the soup every day!” 

“It was so gratifying to witness first-hand the impact that this program and our collaboration is having on members of our community,” Halpern said. “The program answers the need of Jewish homebound elders who require a kosher meal and helps our community keep an eye on them for their safety and well-being. It is especially meaningful during the Jewish holidays when we can offer meals with the familiar foods and flavors that they enjoyed throughout their lifetime.  This Rosh Hashanah we look forward to adding a special holiday extra to their meal…apples, honey and challah…to help wish them a sweet New Year!”  

“Our Meals on Wheels Program is fundamentally important to our home-bound seniors,” said Jenewin-Caplin. “This program ensures that five days a week homebound seniors receive a nutritious kosher meal, and that someone is checking in on their well-being.  Our drivers see the same people daily and they have been trained to look for changes.  If they have any cause for concern they have been instructed to call the GSSSI office to have a case manager check on them. This program is a true safety net for our seniors!”

David Neigher, Richard Engelson and Elliott Levin

“This program is a true success story of three area organizations working together to address the needs of our elders,” said Michael Paysnick, executive director of the Springfield Jewish Community Center. “Together we are addressing senior isolation and their need for good nutrition, while helping seniors remain at home, where they prefer to be. It feels good to be making such a positive difference!”

Community kosher lunches at the “J” are offered at 12 noon, Monday – Friday except for holidays.  Reservations are required and should be made by 11:30 a.m. the day before by calling the Nutrition Program at GSSSI at (413) 781-2135. 

The Meals on Wheels Program is available to all who qualify regardless of income.  To enroll, call GSSSI at (413) 781-8800 to request an assessment. In addition to Kosher Meals on Wheels, GSSSI also offers a Traditional Menu, Latino menu and Medically Tailored menu. For more information call GSSSI at (413) 781-2135.

Main Photo: Sharon Ritchie and Jared Pringle

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