From the Heart: Meals on Wheels volunteers give their all

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Bob McSweeney, retired combat marine, is also a dedicated volunteer. Courtesy Photo

MANCHESTER, NH –  Under slate gray skies in NH’s Queen City on a recent morning, Robert “Bob” McSweeney cheerfully hustles a cooler of meals to his car in preparation for his upcoming Meals on Wheels delivery.  As the former combat marine briskly goes about his daily tasks, he shares some recent client interactions.

“In some cases, I’m the only face our clients may see in a given week,” he says.  “That’s why those interactions-even for just a few minutes- are so important to those we serve.  And beyond the delivery of meals, we perform welfare checks to make sure people are doing ok.”

Back inside the Carpenter Center, where meals are packaged and put together, Bob – who’s been volunteering for about two years – and other volunteers take part in a quick meeting led by Site Director Frank Carpentino and Site Assistant Director Jessie Pinkham.  Frank and Jessie review some paperwork that drivers need to be aware of and lead a discussion about a possible storm, which may alter the schedule going forward.

“This group is like a family,” Jessie said.  “Both the volunteers and paid staff come together for a common purpose – to take care of our clients.  Frank, who retired as a firefighter before joining St. Joe’s almost six years ago, said that on a given day, more than 500 meals are provided out of the Carpenter Center. He explained that the number of meals delivered has changed slightly due to some clients moving in with their family members during the pandemic and the temporary suspension of the community dining programs.  “However, we’ve also added new clients, so the need is always there,” he said.

Sisters Aline Gamlin and Lorraine Audet say the work they do assembling meals at the Carpenter Center, keep them connected to community. Courtesy Photo

Elsewhere in the Carpenter Center, volunteers Aline Gamlin and Lorraine Audet are part of a bustling assembly line of volunteers and staff packing up the day’s deliveries.  The duo are sisters and say that working together and being part of the mission helps connect them to the community and one another.

“Volunteering here and being part of the cause of helping others is wonderful,” says Aline.  “And being side by side with Lorraine has brought the two of us even closer together.”  For her part, Lorraine adds that “knowing the positive impact the food delivery and other services has on our clients is very meaningful.  Everyone here (staff and volunteers) has the same goal when it comes to taking care of those in need.”

Jessie said that volunteers like Bob, Aline and Lorraine help form the backbone of the agency’s work.  “They’re truly an amazing group and through what they do each day, they are making people’s lives better.”

Jon Eriquezzo, President of SJCS, says that the need for volunteers is perhaps greater than ever before, especially in population centers like Manchester and Nashua.  “Due to the pandemic and the temporary closure of community dining sites, we’ve shifted our focus to delivering more meals and with winter approaching, we anticipate the need continuing to increase.”

He added that the agency is in the midst of a volunteer recruitment effort.  “Every hour counts when it comes to our clients.  Delivery of meals and wellness checks enable people to age safely in place.  Donating just a few hours a week can have a major positive impact on those in need.”

To learn more about volunteering at St. Joseph Community Services, please email or call Jillian Schucart at or at (603) 424-9967. 

About St. Joseph Community Services, Inc.

St. Joseph Community Services (SJCS) is dedicated to promoting better physical and mental health of older and other qualified adults in Hillsborough County through the provision of nutritious meals and vital wellness checks. SJCS also strives to meet the diverse needs of its clients through volunteerism and extensive collaboration with other community services.

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