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Meals on Wheels marches on at Southern

A Lower Moyamensing school’s budding cooks prepared meals for five dozen seniors.

By Joseph Myers
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Mar. 31, 2011

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A volunteering senior gleefully added cheese to the meatless lasagna that her high school assistants made to benefit her fellow elders.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Desires for certain joys may decline as one ages, but a hunger to halt hunger never droops.

Eighteen future food specialists at South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St., welcomed six seniors, including four from the JCC Stiffel Senior Center, 604 Porter St., in packaging meals for local elders March 23. The 10th Annual March for Meals campaign, part of the Meals On Wheels Association of America, united the groups, whose handiwork included an assist from Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

Members of the school’s culinary club gathered around two stations to place their creations in silver trays. Kosher dairy dinners, the victuals that night delighted the tummies of a mostly Jewish flock.

“We are always looking for ways to connect with those who value seniors,” Sue Aistrop, Klein JCC’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program’s hunger relief program coordinator, said as the helpers sent meatless lasagna, zucchini and chocolate cake with buttercream icing down their lines.

Last week’s gathering falls under the Klein JCC’s Cook for a Friend program, one of three initiatives seeking to ease the lives of Philadelphia’s 276,000 adults ages 60 and older. The senior assistants bantered with their younger cohorts, whose involvement came at the suggestion of instructor Nancy Hansell.

“It was fun,” senior Sam Saengkhed of the 2800 block of Moore Street said of joining his schoolmates in making lasagna for the first time as a group.

Many of the students have gone through ServSafe, a food safety training and teaching program that many restaurants mandate for their management staff. Having already proven their kitchen acumen, the youngsters, who help with their institution’s cafe, gave evidence of their contentment with the proceedings by flashing smiles to the seniors and numerous photographers.

“Community service that allows young and older residents to mesh always helps an area,” Tim Fisher of the 1900 block of Moore Street said.

A first-year member of City Year, a 23-year-old nonprofit specializing in civic engagement and leadership development, Fisher joins with eight others to help the school’s learners to see the value of preserving a community’s identity. Helping seniors, therefore, aids in an area’s continuation.

To Susan Hoffman, however, seniors helping seniors makes an even bigger impression. The director of the Stiffel Center, the Klein JCC’s local venue, she orchestrates volunteer opportunities for many of the 400 seniors her facility assists annually, including stops at St. Monica Manor, 2509 S. Fourth St.

“Our seniors enjoy coming out,” she said. “They appreciate their chance to contribute.”

When finished lending their digits to the preparation, the spry guests buddied up with the teenagers to write cards that will end up in seniors’ breakfast bags. The 20-minute session featured more smiles and let Paul Fox feel even happier about his involvement.

“I volunteer whenever I can,” the Stiffel Center attendee and resident of the 400 block of Oregon Avenue said.

His quick mind and right hand allowed Fox to speed through crafting best wishes for his fellow seniors.

“I’ve enjoyed talking with people and fixing food,” he said. “I always enjoy trying something new.”

Fox had company in experiencing novelty. Before he and his allies busied themselves making 300 cards, they listened to Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end Cornelius Ingram. The fifth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft made the Lower Moyamensing school his initial site for expounding on the benefits of volunteering. After remarks, he signed participants’ shirts and waited for another chance to show his hands’ dexterity.

A proud instructor, Hansell spoke highly of her students’ deftness.

“My kids are great,” the resident of the 600 block of Kimball Street said. “If someone puts them under the gun, they thrive.”

The popular educator became one of the day’s first contributors to encounter Nutter. The politician lent his presence as part of the sixth annual Mayors for Meals campaign. Having headed the City for two-thirds of the celebrations, he oversees a population whose 60-and-older contingency comprises 17 percent of its 1.526 million dwellers, according to a March 15 Age-Friendly Philadelphia report through the re-instituted Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, which reveals the city has the highest proportion of older persons out of America’s 10 largest cities. With 67 percent of the 276,000 souls classified as overweight or obese and 64 percent as having high blood pressure, the nation’s first capital faces challenges that Meals on Wheels wishes to squelch.

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1. South Philly Mike said... on Apr 1, 2011 at 03:20PM

“As a PROUD SPHS alum, it makes me swell with Rams Pride to read this! Just AnOTHER reason to be proud of South Philadelphia!!!!! God bless everyone involved!!”

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