by Barbara Sherf
On Friday mornings 9-month-old Kai Landy and 93-year-old Harry Kenneth “Kenny” Milner, the oldest volunteer at Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels (CHMOW). cross paths while picking up food at Keystone House in Wyndmoor to deliver it to homebound individuals in the community.
Since Kai is not quite old enough to have a driver’s license, her driver is Shannon Hayes-Landy, 31, of Wyndmoor, who takes Kai and the food (and when he’s off from school, her other son, Austin, 7, the youngest CHMOW volunteer in addition to Alex Topping of Chestnut Hill, who is also 7) to Bethlehem Village in Flourtown to deliver hot meals, smiles and good tidings to seven residents there.
Milner’s driver is his daughter, Maureen Alexander of Chestnut Hill, who takes a few hours out from her busy schedule to pick up her father in Wyndmoor and visit eight senior citizens, delivering not only meals but companionship.
At 87, Chestnut Hiller Barbara Williams doesn’t cook much or get out much in the winter, so the deliveries are most welcome. “We talk about the road conditions and their plans for the holidays, and it gives me something to look forward to,” said Williams, as her son, Robert, chatted with Milner about the latest Eagles game.
“I feel better knowing there is someone else touching base with my mother, and Harry is a real inspiration. He is in fabulous shape, and I was amazed when I learned of his age,” Robert said.
“Age is only a number,” said Milner of his volunteer efforts. “I get attached to these people. You feel like they are a friend, and I feel sad when we lose one of them,” he said, while getting in the car for their next stop at the Hill House with Alexander’s dogs, Pippen, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and Galen, a Bernese Mountain Dog, taking up the back seat. Milner and his wife are also recipients of the service.
“My mother has had some health issues, so it’s nice to know they are getting a hot meal three times a week, and it gives me a bit of a break knowing they are not only getting food, but somebody is checking in on them,” Hayes-Landy said while making the rounds on an icy winter morning.
While driving from Wyndmoor to Flourtown with her two sons in tow, Shannon explained why she got involved with the organization. “I was looking to volunteer locally with an organization where I could bring Kai with me, and when I looked at their purpose, I was totally on board with everything they are about.”
Pulling into the lot at the retirement community, Hayes-Landy had a helper with her as 7-year-old Austin was out of school for Thanksgiving break. He pitched in to help carry the food while his mom loaded Kai into his stroller, and off they went.
“It makes me feel good,” said Austin. “The people are really nice and I like helping my mom with the food and with Kai.”
The first stop was at the far end of the building to visit with 91-year-old Eileen Kerrigan, who, while welcoming the food, was clearly thrilled with seeing the young family and catching up on their Thanksgiving holiday. “My family doesn’t have to worry about me as much with the meals coming, and while I enjoy the food, I really like seeing Kai and his brother. You don’t see little ones every day, so it’s a treat,” she said. The group chatted for about five minutes and then it was off to see Jim McCarty, 71, who had served as a Philadelphia police officer for 30 years and was sad around the holidays after the death of his wife and daughter.
“It’s hard, but visits like these really help,” said McCarty, who talked a bit of sports with Austin and laughed at Kai’s antics and Cheerio-throwing ability. “He could be a good pitcher,” said McCarty, who sat in a lounge chair wearing his Phillies T-shirt and cap.
The deliveries typically take about an hour, but the family made two trips to deliver a package of emergency supplies in case volunteers were not able to make the trip in inclement weather.
“It’s not always easy to juggle everything, but I know I’m doing the right thing, and it’s always worth it. I want to teach my kids about giving back and connecting with people, especially seniors who often become overlooked in our world,” she said, while pushing Kai’s carriage and carrying a bag of food on each shoulder.
Lynne Mason, the administrator for Meals on Wheels, said they currently have 62 clients in Chestnut Hill and Springfield Township and 80 volunteers plus “our wonderful friends at Springfield High School who are masters at labeling all the lids and bags of our clients’ meals.” On a winter morning, even Board President Kim Whittaker Morris was busy lining up meals on the porch of Keystone House for the volunteers to take. “We all chip in wherever we can,” she said.
Natalie Bauder, 10, now in 5th grade in the Springfield Township schools, started volunteering in the 2nd grade by holding a bake sale. She recently sold “Magic Reindeer Food” at Stag and Doe nights and raised over $100 for the organization.
Alex Topping recently helped take the two-hour Downton Abbey fundraiser over the $1000 mark by selling raffle tickets. “I gave him the option of sitting in the corner playing a video game or helping out, and he clearly wanted to help out,” said his mother, Laurene Topping, Vice President of the Board, as Alex made his rounds several times to sell raffle tickets for the door prizes.
At 29, Lauren Otterbein of Wyndmoor, who has Down Syndrome, was busy coloring bags for clients as her caregiver Donna Moore of Mt. Airy sat by her side giving her words of encouragement. “She does her part to put a smile on people’s faces. Everyone pitches in where they can,” said Mason as she and Board President Kim Whittaker Morris of Erdenheim lined up the deliveries on the porch as temperatures hovered in the low 40s on a recent Friday morning.
“Everyone just gets along so well and pitches in to do what needs to be done,” said Hayes-Landy. “It’s like a family, and I feel really good to be a part of this organization.”
Mason added that it costs $7 for each meal delivered, and she is encouraging charitable donations, which may be made to CHMOW c/o Keystone House, 8765 Stenton Ave., Wyndmoor, PA 19038 or through their web site at ChestnutHillMOW.com or by calling 215-233-5555.
Barbara Sherf of Capture Life Stories shared her gifts with CHMOW by overseeing a Downtown Abbey fundraiser in November and writing this article about CHMOW. She can be reached at 215-233-8022 or CaptureLifeStories@gmail.com.