Sometimes it’s a warm meal with stuffed cabbage and corned beef delivered right to your front door that makes the biggest difference.
Cabbage and corned beef just happens to be the most popular item on the Siegel Jewish Community Center home delivery menu – a specially designed selection of meals made specifically for seniors and adults with special needs.
In response to the pandemic, the the Siegel Jewish Community Center (JCC) has prepared and delivered over 1000 Kosher meals – all at no cost – to hungry and appreciative seniors – displaying an unwavering resolve to aid its members in a meaningful way.
Many seniors say the sense of isolation and loneliness they feel as they hunker down inside can be fraught with anxiety and that a warm meal delivered with a friendly smile gives them a sense of hope and safely-distant human interaction.
JCC Center Coordinator and Chef Jackie Rankins is grateful to be a part of something really special. She has been preparing the Kosher lunches every day for seniors and others whose health puts them at high risk, and she thinks the meal delivery program could be one of the most important the center has adopted during the crisis.
“The people we serve are extremely grateful because they’re afraid to go out to the grocery store or don’t have family to go shopping for them,” she said. She added that many of the recipients do not want to burden their family members. Rankins adds a homemade cookie to each order, and who doesn’t’ love a cookie?
Before the Pandemic, the JCC had a regular congregate meal program where seniors came every day to be served lunch. That program was discontinued once the State of Emergency due to the pandemic forced businesses and community centers to close their doors.
However, the people of the JCC were determined to find a way to help their needy and the elderly. Undeterred by the pandemic and chaos, the JCC decided to continue the lunch program by moving the menu selections online and moving staff member Dave Rahn into the role of driver to deliver meals to neighborhoods within 10 miles of the center. They have also collaborated with Jewish Family Services to deliver the meals.
The JCC aimed to keep the meals under an affordable $5 per person. But when word spread about the meal delivery program for homebound seniors, other members swung into action offering to underwrite the entire program. The JCC has also received a small grant to help with funding.
Since the program’s launch, no senior has had to pay for lunch, and Rankins says the generosity of members means the program can continue into the summer months.
Rankins prepares the meals over a large stove at the JCC and packs the food into individual reheatable aluminum containers.
The amount of meals The JCC delivers varies daily due to the fluctuating interest of certain menu items. However, The JCC’s top priority is to serve everyone who requests a meal, regardless of the amount of people.
JCC Executive Director Ivy Harlev says the program “is helping nourish the body and the soul” of a vulnerable population. She takes deep pride in the fact that meal recipients have been calling her and the JCC to say how the program has been a lifeline.
Ivy says Chef Jackie “prepares the food with love” and that the quality of her meals is like anyone’s scratch cooking at home.
JCC member and senior citizen Kerin Hearn says the program has allowed her to remain connected to the JCC even in isolation and that “seeing Dave’s friendly face reminds me that there will be a JCC when this is all over.”
Another program recipient, Max Rosenberg, commented that he thinks the program “is a great service” and since “it’s a challenge to go shopping or other places, it’s a real treat.” Rosenberg added that the food deliveries help brighten up his day.
Impressive, right? Well the JCC has not stopped there. On top of navigating CDC guidelines and Delaware regulations in order to ensure that the deliveries comply with the rules, the JCC has been doing a variety of other things that have showcased how much they care about the community.
The JCC staff has been making phone calls to the seniors and members, offering to shop for groceries and connect with them via virtual online classes like aerobics, mahjong, and yoga.
Even when places start opening up to the public, the JCC will continue the meal delivery program to those who request it.
This story struck an emotional chord for me, because I have fond childhood memories of my Great Aunt Dorine, who provided me with my favorite food. If I felt sick a container of the best matzo ball soup showed up on my doorstep, or a celebratory dinner would mean she baked me my favorite coconut cake.
As Ivy noted, Rankins’ meals are made “with love” and that is why they taste so good. The JCC is not just delivering food, they are delivering love.