By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
Three meals a day seems like the norm for most, but — for those who are homebound — not so much.
That’s where Jewish Family Service’s Kosher Home Delivered Meals program comes in. For more than 40 years, the program has made meals happen for those who can’t make them happen for themselves.
“This program is absolutely the lifeline to staying home and independent and that’s something we wish for everyone,” said JFS’ Director of Older Adult Services Debi Weiner. “Hunger is something no one should know and our meals are among a wide spectrum of services to help older adults remain independent in their communities for as long as they can function safely and effectively.”
Healthy meals include an entrée of beef, chicken or fish; a vegetable; bread; dessert; and calcium-fortified orange juice. Meals are prepared by the staff in the kosher kitchen at the Aaron Family JCC; volunteers circle every aspect of the program.
“As the holidays approach, the visits and the smiles that go with the meals are so important to our recipients and it really makes all the difference in the world to them,” said DeeDee Lane, who coordinates the program in action. It currently serves 35 active recipients, matching volunteers’ available schedules to the need each day. “We’ve had volunteers that are parent/child teams with little ones helping to carry the load, literally. We have teens and adults and grandparents. Vacation schedules get tougher because people go away but we’d love anyone who wants to help — one-time, sometimes or regularly. This program really does rely on the people who help us get the food out.”
Meals are delivered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (in advance if a holiday lands on one of those days so there is no interruption in service) to anyone who qualifies under the grant and while all meals are kosher, recipients do not have to be Jewish to participate. Meals are delivered to recipients within JFS’ service area bordered between Mockingbird Lane and McCallum and Greenville, also in most of the City of Richardson (within Dallas County) and the Silver Gardens Senior Apartments (formerly the Echad Apartments). The western boundary is Webb Chapel.
For 18 years, the Dallas Area Agency on Aging has provided grants to sustain the program. In recent years, it has been supported by the Texas Department of Agriculture and Dallas County as well.. Up to seven meals a week are available, the need determined at an assessment by a JFS counselor. For those not meeting the economic constraints, delivered meals are available at $5.75 each. Recipients may be on the schedule long-term or temporarily, or perhaps while recovering from an illness or injury.
“For many, delivering meals is the first introduction to JFS and the relationships are often long lasting,” said Weiner, speaking from experience. She was a driver for the program before becoming a JFS professional. “Our helpers are all ages and from all areas of the community and we thrive because of their commitment.”
Volunteers confirm the number of meals they have matches the number of recipients on their route and set off to perform their mitzvah. For many, the delivery person is the only contact some recipients have. Client confidentiality is primary, but the relationships built between many volunteers and their recipients are treasured.
For 17-year-old Evan Allen, volunteering has been a life-altering experience. “Everyone deserves respect even if they’ve fallen on hard times or are dealing with medical constraints,” said the Plano ISD Academy High School senior, who has volunteered for many of JFS’ programs over the last seven years. “The ancient texts I read from the Torah during my bar mitzvah, although I couldn’t appreciate at the time, describe human beings as created b’tzelem Elokim, in the image of God. Connecting to the recipients has made those words much more personal, and given me a responsibility to serve.”
While Allen volunteers as his schedule allows, Lynne and Marty Baron have made deliveries a standing date each Friday for the last 10 years. “JFS is phenomenal and we’ve been a part of many of its programs but delivering meals is something we love to do together. The people we deliver to are so appreciative and thankful and we know we’re making a difference every time we go out,” Lynne said.
“We’ve lost many whom we delivered to through the years and that’s very sad, of course,” said Lynne, “but we have one client we’ve served most of our tenure. Her husband sadly passed, they’d been married more than 60 years, but we still see her, check on her and deliver to her. She’s always glad to see us — of course that’s mutual.”
Feeding those who are hungry; nourishing their bodies and spirit — it’s what JFS does every day, in every way.
To volunteer for JFS’ Home Delivered Meals program, contact Jamie Denison at 972-994-0502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To arrange an assessment, as a prospective recipient, call JFS at 972-437-9950, for an initial intake appointment.