Warm meals supplied by warmer hearts

By Michael McKiernan - ReminderNews
East Hampton - posted Mon., Mar. 4, 2013
The East Hampton Senior Center relies on volunteers to help those in need. (L-r): Dan Colella, Ann Eaton, Richard Eaton, Jan Condron and Jo Ann Ewing with Rose Hastings (center). Photos by Michael McKiernan.
The East Hampton Senior Center relies on volunteers to help those in need. (L-r): Dan Colella, Ann Eaton, Richard Eaton, Jan Condron and Jo Ann Ewing with Rose Hastings (center). Photos by Michael McKiernan.

Whether it’s a warm meal at night or just passing the time while enjoying the company of friends, it’s the simple things in life that we tend to take for granted. Yet, the volunteers of the East Hampton Senior Center's Meals on Wheels program know just how impactful these seemingly mundane experiences can be in a person’s life.

A program that started out small in St. Patrick’s Church more than 20 years ago has now evolved into one that oversees the delivery of about 15 to 20 meals per day. By delivering food and companionship to those in need, Senior Center Director Jo Ann Ewing has witnessed first-hand how important this work is.

“[Meals on Wheels] is for people that are homebound and can’t get their own meals. Many times this is the only hot meal of the day they will receive. We help those with hip surgeries, knee surgeries and anyone unable to cook for themselves,” said Ewing. “Isolation can also be a big problem. Sometimes [a client’s] only contact is with our volunteer delivering the food.”

With meals being delivered every day - and some clients need deliveries twice, three times or even five times a week - Ann Eaton is responsible for keeping the program afloat. Having joined the program more than four years ago, Eaton spends her time maintaining the food, scheduling the drivers and keeping them on consistent routes in order to establish bonds between the drivers and clients.

“[The program] serves a nice purpose. Some of the people we help have no contact with anyone; this lets us know how they’re doing and [we can] keep an eye on them. Over time, the drivers even become friends with those they bring food to,” said Eaton.

One client in particular is really appreciative of all of the work that the volunteers put in. Local East Hampton resident Nicholas Battit, a 95-year-old retired school teacher, regularly welcomes those who volunteer their time and enjoys the company they provide.

“In my case, the only relative I have is out of the state, so it’s nice to have someone that looks after me and makes sure that I answer the door,” said Battit. He takes pleasure from speaking with his volunteers and is glad knowing that his son has some peace of mind, knowing that he is being taken care of.

But while the company is nice to keep, Battit is quick to admit that the food isn’t half bad either. “It’s absolutely great,” he said. “The whole menu has a good variety: diced carrots, potatoes, string beans, desserts and puddings. Sometimes there’s steak so tender you don’t even need a knife to cut it.”

Even with visions of tender steak in his eyes, Battit never lost sight of the work that these volunteers are doing.

“I must pay tribute to the volunteers who take responsibility and hurry to get here on time,” he said.

Mother of two, church volunteer and frequent supporter of the local schools, one such volunteer is no stranger to helping out within the community. For more than 30 years, Jane Condron has been doing all she can to give a helping hand. When asked why she has chosen to volunteer for so long and forego her long-deserved rest and relaxation, she responded by saying, “The people keep me coming back.”

Whatever their reason for volunteering, Ewing says that the senior center never seems to have a problem getting volunteers; and she credits the bond of the East Hampton community as the reason why.

Meals on Wheels volunteer Jay Bruce is also only too happy to help out, suggesting that, “Someday I might be on the other end - you never know.”

Anyone interested in volunteering may call Anne Eaton at 860-267-4426, ext. 320.

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