By Jeff Mays
EAST HARLEM — Six days a week, Ida Bell, 73, a retired chaplain, knows that she's going to get a visit from the Meals on Wheels program run by Union Settlement Association.
The program, which feeds 270 Harlem seniors year round, does more than just drop off food — they often check on Bell to make sure she's okay and offer her other services.
"We have worked, paid our dues and helped others along the way. It's sure nice to be remembered," said Bell.
That's especially true around the holidays when many single and homebound seniors can feel an even greater sense of isolation.
"Many homebound seniors live alone or far from family and friends, and often struggle with isolation and depression, and so we think it is particularly important that we bring some holiday joy into their lives as well," said David Nocenti, executive director of Union Settlement, an organization "dedicated to solving urban problems in East Harlem."
To combat those feelings, Union Settlement decided to supplement its holiday gift program by giving blankets to the seniors in the Meals on Wheels program. While toys have been purchased for all 665 children the group serves, almost 150 blankets are still needed for the elderly.
Each blanket costs around $15, meaning that Union Settlement needs individuals to donate about $2,235.
"People like to get toys for kids and they are doing it already. Seniors are not the obvious thing that they think of," said Sara Stuart, director of Development and Communication for Union Settlement Association.
Union Settlement already serves 13,000 people in East Harlem, where 47 percent of children and 33 percent of seniors live in poverty, according to statistics provided by Union Settlement.
Senior Citizens like Phillipa Lord said she's glad someone is thinking of her. When she was robbed of her rent and grocery money recently, Union Settlement stepped in and provided extra meals.
"My food money and rent money was wiped out so it meant a great deal. It was really essential because I could not stand to cook," said Lord.
Bell, who has spent her life in service to others, said one never knows when they are going to need help.
"My life has come full circle," Bell said. "Now I can sit back and say thank God for people that care about people."