As Westchesters population ages, who will care for the growing number of elderly residents? Richard Hansen, coordinator for Meals on Wheels in the Rye/Port Chester area, has part of the solution: hot meals delivered once a day by volunteers that nurture the body and spirit, while connecting them to the outside world.
People are living so much longer, Hansen said. We have a few people living in the area who are over 100 years old. We talk to the people. We get pretty close.
A Meals on Wheels volunteer for nearly a decade, Hansen has personally observed changes in the people served. He said when he began, most people used the service for a few months while healing from surgery or being temporarily homebound. Now, about one third use the service for years, he said, noting, They are alone and homebound.
In his area of Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester, Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver 28 to 30 meals a day, Monday through Friday. The deliverers rotate so that the clients see different people on a regular basis. Volunteers often travel in pairs, one driving and one delivering the hot meal.
Hansen has lived in Port Chester and Rye throughout his life. He currently resides in Rye with his wife, Barbara.
I recognize a lot of people from when I was a child, he said. I was the altar boy at the wedding of one of the ladies I interviewed recently.
Hansen handles initial interviews during which he collects important information for deliveries and nutritional needs. He also coordinates the volunteers schedules. Hansen joined Meals on Wheels when he retired as an electrician. He said he volunteered with the organization because a family friend had used the service years before.
The friend had been a chef at Westchester Country Club and through illness or injury was homebound. Meals on Wheels gave both the friend and Hansen peace of mind when Hansen was unavailable to help during the day. Barbara Hansen, who retired from the Fabric Design Center in Larchmont, joined her husband as a volunteer several years ago. Hansen took over the duties of coordinator in 2005.
I never thought I would be the chair, he said. Ive learned a lot. I love it.
Those who would like to volunteer should call 914 925-0778 .