By Benjamin Joe
The holiday season is here and many are taking the time to give back. However, it should be remembered that, for all the donations made during the holiday season, that generosity may end up just being something for the holidays.
In times of plenty, it’s easy to forget there are some people for whom giving isn’t a once-a-year event, but a way of life.
“We’re in the business of providing meals for those who cannot cook or shop for themselves,” said Pam Hill, coordinator-director for Twin City Meals on Wheels. “Whether it be from age or illness. It can be long-term; it can be short-term. We’ve had people who we’ve served for more than 30 years now.”
Twin City Meals on Wheels makes its home in the City of North Tonawanda at 100 Ridge Road. From there, the organization provides two meals a day for those living within the boundaries of the City of North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda; independently and with dignity in their own homes. Despite the nondiscrimination policy Twin City Meals on Wheels maintains, Hill said the clientele for the organization has become “decidedly older” in the past 20 years.
“We’ve had someone as old as 106,” she said. “And, by the way, she was quite active! … I delivered to her a couple of times as a server.”
For Hill, working at the business is something passed down from family.
“My mother was here for many years, since the early ’90s. My father was also here as a volunteer,” she said. “My mother actually did the office work for quite a few years. She had to retire in 2015 for emergency surgery. So, I took over then. At that point, I was working in the kitchen and my father and brother volunteered. … My brother’s kids, they volunteered. … (It takes) somebody who has a heart for serving others.”
While the group is made up almost entirely of volunteers, Hill made it clear that Twin Cities Meals on Wheels is not a charity.
“There is a cost, because this is actually a private business,” she explained. “It’s reasonable, though. It’s $6 to $7.50 a day depending on the level of service you receive and whether you’re diabetic or not.”
These fees go to paying Hill for her work, as well as two cooks and supplies. It’s the volunteers, though, who make this enterprise a reality for the individuals along the nine routes the group drives.
“We have approximately 120 volunteers who come and work throughout the week, just in meals,” Hill said. “There’s more volunteers who come in to work at the Clothing Closet and the food pantry (that are located in the same building). You don’t realize how many people will volunteer their time and are willing to do this to help somebody else.”
Hill went on to show the Tribune the rest of the building, which is owned by Twin Cities Community Outreach.
“This place is huge,” she said as she opened the doors of TCCO’s offices and the Clothing Closet. “We don’t even use half the building.”
“If you qualify – you have to qualify income-wise to go to the food pantry, – you’re allowed to come back here and everything is free,” Hill said. “Men’s clothes up there, shoes, children’s clothes in the back, women’s clothes up here. … If you’re in need, this is where you come in North Tonawanda. Generally, the food pantry allows you to come once a month and it’s approximately three days of food. Then they can come over here a couple times a year and get clothing and some small appliances.”
Hill locked the door to the Clothing Closet and walked to the food pantry, an even bigger room on the other side of the building.
“I’d say about half of this is donated,” she said of the stacks and stacks of food on wood pallets in what appears to be a warehouse floor. “They also get to buy from the Food Bank where they pay pennies on the dollar. If you see stuff in cases, that’s Food Bank, and the stuff on the tables that they’re sorting, that’s donations. They sort them by type, check for expiration dates. There’s a lot of need, you don’t realize till you see it.”
Hill again said how it’s the volunteers who make it happen. Some of them approached this writer and Hill greeted them enthusiastically.
“Some people just need to give,” she said. “We’re just so happy to have so many people who want to help. We’re just so blessed in that regard.”
“We’re always looking for more volunteers, though,” she added before getting back to her work. “We could always use more.”