By Deb Silverthorn
The Aaron Family JCC is closing in on 73,000 meals distributed since March 2020. While the J’s doors have been closed to daily activities, the kitchen hasn’t missed a beat, nor have its program’s participants missed any meals.
Nearly 50,000 meals have been provided to participants of the J’s Senior Meal Program, and 22,836 to Jewish Family Service’s Kosher Home Delivered Meals, over the past 18 months. Recipients pick up meals at a drive-thru line at the J three times per week, and volunteers for JFS deliver their meals weekly.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been an incredible experience and we are so proud to have been able to provide good and healthy meals and to be able to see our seniors, even if masked and from the car,” said JCC Chef Eli Cohn-Wein. “We swung into action, the J’s board and administration sparing us no expense, and we confirmed that there’s nothing you can’t do if you have teamwork. This team is exceptional.”
That team includes Katharine Rubenstein, Senior Adult Program director; Anna Angorina, Senior Adult Program coordinator; Cohn-Wein’s assistant, Destini Hamilton; Bella Weissburd, Dallas Kosher supervisor; Sharon Cane, Senior Programming outreach coordinator; Dana Roseman, dietitian; and, early on, Kay Hale, who is no longer with the J.
“It has been nothing short of amazing what we’ve been able to turn out and for sure this group can always be counted on. The J is the place people have come for years and I’m so proud of the work we are doing to continue that support,” said JCC Chief Executive Officer Artie Allen.
Outside of pandemic regulations, the JCC provides meals (with a suggested donation request), and exercise, card games, crafts, wellness programming and more every Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the past 18 months, the meals have been handed out, four meals each Monday, Wednesday and Friday — 12 a week for those picking up each time.
A healthy menu of more than 100 options, including main dishes and sides of lasagna and Swedish meatballs, curried chicken and schnitzel, tuna casseroles, salmon and more, has kept recipients more than satisfied with the variety.
“They’ve saved so many from having to go out, from being exposed, and they’ve absolutely saved lives,” said Richard Aston, a participant in the senior meals program. “There are months before there’s been a repetition and it’s always delicious. I’m sure it’s been a challenge, but it is appreciated, and I applaud them.”
Each Friday in September, to send home the tastes and senses of Jewish holidays, the carryout included a challah, Shabbat candles, grape juice and a dessert. Once a month, a brunch bag is also distributed with lox and bagels or other similar specialty items.
“For many people who haven’t gone out at all, this is all they have and it is absolutely delicious,” said Sandy Kuntz, who had been a regular for lunch and other activities at the J for years. “It helps with the budget, which is very important to many seniors, and it’s healthy and really so good.”
The salmon is her favorite, Kuntz said, and seeing the faces of J staffers has also been meaningful. “We have missed each other so much and so yes, even if it’s just from the car a couple of minutes a week, I’m so glad.”
The J, which offers a $44 Social J membership for seniors regardless of religious affiliation, has yet to resume full programming. But its staff and recipients have been grateful for the opportunities to connect with one another.
In addition to meals, the J’s Senior Department also arranged for COVID-19 vaccines for 120 seniors and staff and, on Sept. 17, flu shots for nearly 100.
For more information, or to register for meals, contact Sharon Cane at 214-239-7183.