by Paula M. Riley
During this week of cupids, candy hearts and red roses, some couples show their love and commitment towards each other in very touching ways.
“She is my co-pilot,” says Tom Conboy, 81, as he describes Ann, 75, his wife of 54 years! After raising five sons together, they are now retired. Each Friday morning, the two of them load a dozen meals into their car and deliver these to homebound residents in the Chestnut Hill area. She gives him the directions to the five homes they visit, and he takes the meals inside.
Tom has been volunteering with Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels (MOW) since 1994 when a friend got sick and asked him to take his route. From that day forward, Tom has been delivering meals and shared a route with a good friend, Ed Heim, for more than a decade. When Ed died in 2007, Tom asked his wife to join him on the route.
“She really enjoys it,” Tom said. “We have a few laughs, and she likes to keep me company.” Usually, Ann stays in the car while Tom takes the meal inside. She is in charge of directions. They both find the work very rewarding and are happy that they are well enough to get out each week.
Since Valentine’s Day fell on a Monday this year, the couple wasn’t delivering meals, but they still celebrated the holiday. Ann gave Tom a box of candy and a blue shirt a day early on Sunday evening. “I told her I didn’t get her anything,” Tom said, laughing. “I lied; I did get her a nice card and box of candy!”
Though they haven’t been married for five decades like the Conboys, Kathleen, 28, and Mark Novasack, 30, also volunteer together as drivers for Meals on Wheels once a week. Kathleen experienced her first Meals on Wheels route in Dover, NJ, when she was strapped in an infant car seat. Throughout her childhood, her mother took her on the meal deliveries. “I have extremely fond memories of the people we’d see and visit with each week,” she said.
When Kathleen and Mark moved to Chestnut Hill from New York City in 2007, they visited the MOW booth at a Garden Festival but were unable to volunteer at the time due to work schedules. After their daughter, Juliette, was born nine months ago and Mark returned to school full-time, they had a more flexible schedule, so they started delivering meals.
Each Friday, the young couple loads meals in the back of their SUV. They love to spend the time together as a couple and as a family. “We have enjoyed getting to know the folks on our run,” said Kathleen. “Juliette always has a smile to share, which brings a little extra joy to the MOW clients!”
Kathleen always knew she wanted to volunteer with Meals on Wheels as an adult, but sharing the experience with her husband makes the volunteer service much more special. “Volunteering as a couple makes our experience so much richer. Not only do we look forward to delivering meals, but also spending time with each other. Life can get hectic, so it’s nice to have a date each week to help people in our community while spending quality time together as a family.”
As they are in their marriages, the Conboys and Novasacks are committed to Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels. Like so many of the volunteers this organization relies on every day, these four individuals are touching the lives of others.
“We are so grateful to the Conboys and Novascks for their service to Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels,” said MOW board member Laurene Topping. “These couples are role models for community service as a family. Their commitment shows that community is an extension of family and that community service is a critical aspect of meaningful family life.”
According to Jami Dolby, community outreach director for MOW, “Once while out on a delivery, the Novasacks had a flat tire and immediately called our office. The call was not to ask us to finish the route but to inform us that they would be late, because after AAA finished changing the tire, they still planned to finish delivering the meals to our clients. While these two couples you are highlighting are separated by generation gaps, together they share a love for each other and a passion for giving back to the community.”
There are many opportunities to volunteer at Meals On Wheels. Drivers do not need to go in pairs, and children are always welcome. Routes usually involve five to six deliveries, which are spaced close together, and visits inside the homes are as long or short as volunteers would like them to be.
Volunteers are needed to pack the meals, help with mailings and plan fundraisers. “We have so many wonderful volunteers and are always looking for more!” said Topping. “Whatever your skills, time commitment or interest, we have something for you to do at Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels.” For more information, visit www.chestnuthillmow.com or call 215-233-5555.