Meals on Wheels reaches out

Annis stands about five-foot two in her thread-bare slippers; her thin shoulders slightly stooped.

Meals on Wheels

CUC employees Danny Manderson and Tony Kenzel deliver lunch each week to Violet Myles in George Town as part of the Meals on Wheels programme.
Photo: Tammie C. Chisholm

She’s in the kitchen of her Scranton home, peering around the half open scuffed wooden door.

She lives in a neighbourhood that’s seen its share of killings and crime.

She lives in a neighbourhood where you don’t leave your doors open or unlocked.

She lives in a neighbourhood where many residents know hunger.

Annis’ neighbourhood is in the shadows of towering concrete, metal and glass buildings that are home to many of the institutions that make the Cayman Islands the fifth largest financial centre in the world.

The glittering buildings are a stark contrast to her neighbourhood, which is littered with junked cars, trash-strewn vacant lots and vandalised buildings.

It would appear that Annis’ neighbourhood is one that care has given up on.

But that’s not the case.

Tony Kenzel and Danny Manderson care.

Neil Cruickshank cares.

Mary Garcia, Marvalyn Lee and Beulah McField care.

So do the other volunteers and staff that make the Meals on Wheels programme work each day.

‘This is one job I enjoy,’ said Mr. Kenzel, who works along side CUC co-worker Mr. Manderson to deliver meals weekly. ‘I don’t just put the food down. I talk to them.’

The CUC pair are just two of the electrical company’s employees that take part weekly in the Meals on Wheels programme as volunteers. Other volunteers come from other companies, are private individuals or members of Rotary.

They deliver meals each week to Violet Myles in George Town.

‘It’s very, very good,’ said Ms Myles. ‘I am so glad and happy that someone has come to help.’

For many recipients the MoW lunch is the only nutritionally balanced meal they get each day.

Ms McField took over the feeding of Cayman’s elderly from her mother more than 10 years ago.

Her mom made sure the elderly members of her church received a hot meal from her own kitchen on a daily basis.

‘She got to a place where she couldn’t do it,’ she said.

Ms McField heads up Rehoboth Ministries, which Government allowed to move in to the TE McField Youth and Community Centre if it would provide a community service.

The feeding programme fit right in.

‘We started on a little electric stove much like you find in houses,’ she said. ‘Two months after we started, Rotary wanted to bring Meals on Wheels here and went to McKeeva Bush. He said someone was already doing that in a government facility. We’ve been partners ever since.’

Meals on Wheels feeds about 150 people every day in the areas of East End, Breakers, George Town and the Frank Sound area.

And there are 36 people in Bodden Town waiting for the programme to revamp there. It was stopped after Hurricane Ivan.

Convincing the elderly on limited incomes to participate in the Meals on Wheels programme hasn’t been easy.

‘Initially we knew all of the recipients through my mother,’ Ms McField said.

Referrals come from churches, Social Services and neighbours.

‘When we first got started I had to go to every one of the elderly and ask them to allow us to please let us feed them,’ she said. ‘It was hard breaking that cultural tradition of not accepting food from a stranger. It took a long time, but we did it.’

While preparing and delivering the meals can be a rewarding experience, it can also be an eye opener to the uglier side of the Cayman Islands.

‘One of the problems is children,’ Ms McField said.

She cites an example of one George Town woman who lived her entire life in her own home, tending her garden, being as self sufficient as she could on a limited income, accepting her daily gift of food from Meals on Wheels.

‘We would stop, visit and she would talk about her plants.’

Eventually her grown children began moving into her home, bringing with them their older children.

They’ve now taken over her home, relegating her to a small room in the house. The garden no longer exists.

In some cases Ms McField expects the elderly are being abused.

‘Some of them do beat their grandparents,’ she said. ‘The elderly person would never bring charges. They feel connected to them, even if it’s bad treatment. They continue to put up with it.’

One of the things Meals on Wheels does is bring balance to a bad situation when the volunteers arrive in a yard to deliver food. The children and grandchildren taking advantage of the elderly person become well behaved when there’s a stranger in the yard, she said.

A while back MoW volunteers serving a particularly bad section of Scranton literally had to step over the bodies of drug dealers and abusers when delivering to one elderly person’s home.

Volunteer and former Royal Cayman Islands Police Officer Derrick Haines was put on the route.

‘That helped to move those drug dealers from that elderly person’s yard,’ Ms McField said.

While the programme is free to those who need it, it isn’t cheap to operate.

The programme buys food from Progressive, Fosters and Uncle Clem’s Kitchen. Cost-U-Less sends over food it can’t sell because of damaged packaging, saving the programme about $200 a month.

Meals that serve George Town clients are prepared at the TE McField centre. Restaurants in other parts of Grand Cayman are paid $4 per meal to feed clients elsewhere.

In September those who oversee Meals on Wheels realised they didn’t have enough money to meet costs for the rest of the year, despite the generous support of Rotary.

To help raise money, Meals on Wheels plans its first fundraiser next month.

Moving Art for Meals on Wheels will be held 8 March at the home of Ashley and Ina Hammer on Canal Point. There, 150 patrons will be able to view and buy original art from four Cayman-based artists – Dora Williams, Sue Howe, Renate Seffer and Avril Ward.

Each of the artists will paint four or five new paintings for the evening. Forty per cent of any artwork sold will go to Meals on Wheels. Proceeds from tickets, which are $75 each, will also go to the charity. Tickets cover the costs of alcohol and food.

Cuban cigars will be offered for sale and there will be live entertainment.

To find out more about the fundraiser or to order tickets, call Ms McField at 916-5967 or email [email protected]

The programme is always willing to take on more volunteers. Contact Ms McField.