LAWRENCE: Those who deliver were served this time

Every weekday, Meals on Wheels volunteers serve a hot lunch to the elderly and the homebound. But Thursday, those volunteers were the ones being served — at the annual luncheon to honor them for thei

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
   Every weekday, Meals on Wheels volunteers serve a hot lunch to the elderly and the homebound.
   But Thursday, those volunteers were the ones being served — at the annual luncheon to honor them for their efforts.
   About 40 volunteers gathered in the social hall at the Slackwood Presbyterian Church on Brunswick Pike to enjoy camaraderie and a hot meal.
   Joyce Stilwell, the executive director of the Lawrence Meals on Wheels program, said the nonprofit group holds a luncheon every year as a token of thanks to the approximately 50 volunteers who deliver meals.
   ”They do it for nothing all year long. This is the least we can do in appreciation for all their good work, their time and their effort,” Ms. Stilwell said.
   The Lawrence Township Meals on Wheels program volunteers have been delivering a hot meal weekdays to those who cannot cook for themselves — mostly the elderly and others who are convalescing after a hospital stay. Some clients are served daily and others choose to receive a meal a few days per week.
   Some senior citizens are physically unable to prepare meals for themselves, or they may not be preparing nutritious meals, Ms. Stilwell said. But signing up for the Meals on Wheels program ensures they received one good meal daily, at a cost of $4.50 per meal.
   Several of the volunteers were recognized for their years of service at the June 13 luncheon.
   Doris Gagliardi and Elizabeth Williams were given certificates and a bouquet of flowers to honor their years of service. Ms. Gagliardi has been delivering meals for 30 years and Ms. Williams, who is sometimes partnered with Ms. Gagliardi, has been helping for 27 years.
   ”Another 30 years, Doris,” a volunteer called out as Ms. Gagliardi picked up her certificate and flowers.
   Sandra Pollack was honored for 20 years of volunteering with the Lawrence Meals on Wheels program.
   Ms. Gagliardi said she began to volunteer after her children began to go to school.
   ”I was looking for something to do,” Ms. Gagliardi said. “I saw an advertisement in the newspaper. I thought that was something I could do. I started out as a substitute (meal deliverer). Then, I got my own route.”
   ”It doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s rewarding to bring people their meals. You commit a couple of hours a week. You just get into the habit of it,” she said.
   Ms. Gagliardi said the volunteers do not stay long when they deliver a meal, “but at least we say ‘hello.’ Over the years, there have been so many people who were alone all day long. We were probably the only face they saw.”
   Asked why she began to volunteer with the Lawrence Meals on Wheels program, Ms. Williams replied that “it just seemed like a good fit for me. I like to meet people. I realize that for many people, we are their only contact with the outside world.”
   While Ms. Gagliardi and Ms. Williams are longtime volunteers, there are some who have only recently begun to devote a few hours per week to the program.
   Pina Schonheiter and Mary Schroeder have been delivering meals for only a few months. They said they learned of it through the “Create and Relate” group that they belong to at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville.
   ”One of the women mentioned that Meals on Wheels needed volunteers,” Ms. Schonheiter said. “We decided to give it a try. There is a sense of accomplishment. You put an hour of your time to good use, and you get a smile or two from the clients.”
   Ms. Schroeder added that she and Ms. Schonheiter “are getting to know places in Lawrence that we didn’t know existed.”
   For Pat Beaber, who has been dropping off meals to clients since January, it was a chance to do some volunteer work. She recently retired as the head of the reference library at The College of New Jersey. She is currently serving as a substitute, filling in when a volunteer who has a regular route cannot make it.
   ”I knew some volunteers through church (the Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church),” Ms. Beaber said. “They took me on a trial run. I like meeting people. The clients are so gracious. I am able to do this, so why not?”