So much more than a meal

Union Leader Correspondent
March 22. 2013 12:43AM
From left, Meals on Wheels driver Eric Boggis delivers lunch to Theresa of Nashua, while Mayor Donnalee Lozeau joins him for some of his deliveries on Thursday. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/Union Leader Correspondent)

NASHUA -- For clients like Willy and Theresa, the Meals on Wheels program is more than just a daily hot meal - it is a lifeline to the outside world, an instant companion and the comfort of knowing they are not alone.

On Thursday, several city officials traveled throughout Nashua helping drivers of the St. Joseph Community Services' Meals on Wheels program deliver lunches to hundreds of home-bound senior citizens.

"This is a new experience for me. I haven't done much to help out with local nonprofit groups, so I am taking some personal time from work to assist for a few hours," said Alderman Dan Moriarty, who was joined by other city officials including Deputy Police Chief Scott Howe, Alderman Mark Cookson, Alderman Barbara Pressly and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.

Each year, the city appropriates about $35,000 to help fund the community service program, which prepares and delivers about 400 meals a day from the Nashua Senior Activity Center. There are 17 delivery routes throughout Nashua, Hudson, Pelham, Hollis and Litchfield, with some drivers delivering meals to about 40 clients.

"For me, this is a blessing because my income is limited," said Willy, a Nashua resident who has received Meals on Wheels services for about five years. "It definitely makes a big difference in my health. I lost one leg, and my eyesight is not good, but these people are awesome. We have a real connection."

Willy, whose last name is being withheld to respect client privacy, had the privilege of meeting the mayor on Thursday, who surprised Willy when she delivered him his turkey pot pie, sweet potatoes and cake.

Lozeau couldn't leave without first learning Willy's private handshake, which he described as the Puerto Rican salute.

"This is a very critical service," Lozeau said while delivering the meals. "I think it is important for the volunteers and staff to know that we value their work, and that we are here to support them."

Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal delivery service, according to Steve Ayotte, regional site manager, who said it provides a daily safety check for elderly and disabled individuals who may not have contact with anyone else throughout the day.

Theresa, 82, is another Meals on Wheels client who can't say enough about Eric Boggis, the driver who frequently delivers her lunches.

He goes above and beyond his duties, according to Theresa, who says it is so nice to have a friendly face visiting her throughout the week. And while it isn't necessary, Theresa goes out of her way to offer a weekly donation for her meals. Boggis has been delivering meals for about five years, and described the work as "the best job I've ever had."

Clients are incredibly appreciative, always welcoming and usually eager for a quick chat.

"I often feel bad that I can't stay longer. It breaks my heart," said Boggis.

For Cookson, Thursday's volunteer efforts were giving back to an organization that previously helped his grandfather before he passed away.

"Our family received these services in the past, so I feel it is important to learn what this program is all about," said Cookson.

In Hillsborough County, about 1,350 meals are served each day through the Meals on Wheels organization. Hundreds of volunteers help prepare the daily meals, making the process virtually seamless, said Meghan Brady, president of St. Joseph Community Services' Meals on Wheels program.

"I think it is important to recognize the need that is quietly met each day," said Brady, explaining the motivation behind Thursday's Mayors for Meals Day event.

This is the first time the organization invited other elected officials - aside from mayors - to participate in the event, and Brady said she was pleased with the turnout.

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