The courage and selflessness of these individuals was recently acknowledged when three volunteers were called out for their above and beyond dedication during this unprecedented time. Amy Stuart, SAGE’s Volunteer Coordinator fought back tears as she thanked the three individuals. “The fact that you risked your safety and the safety of your families to continue the work we do is just incredible. I don’t know how we would have done this without you and all of our amazing volunteers.” Meals on Wheels Manager, Robin Handwerger added, “There are no words to express how I feel about these people; they are family and make my heart so full.  We worked seamlessly together during a very chaotic and scary time.”

Asked what it was that made the three continue to help during such an unprecedented time, Venessa Rittman of Mountainside said it was a relief to have a purpose and know she could be useful. “It gave me a focus. I’m a social worker by trade, so jumping in when people are in need used to be my job. I helped take care of my aging parents before they died and I couldn’t imagine them stranded alone, not knowing how they would get their next meal. Helping to make sure our clients had food was an easy decision.” She added, “My husband was nervous at first that I was exposing myself, but he also knew that it was necessary to help. I think my kids thought I was lucky to be getting out of the house.”

Christopher Glacken of Berkeley Heights is a former SAGE trustee and has been volunteering for five years. Glacken said not coming in was never an option. “I thought if we don’t continue helping these people who will, how will they get food? We don’t just deliver meals, we check in to make sure everyone is okay. Too often we are the only visitor these people see.”

Volunteer Nataile Cahoon of Berkeley Heights, who will celebrate her 90th birthday later this year, continued coming in every day as well. Cahoon has been a Meals on Wheels volunteer for 18 years and said she chose SAGE for her service because of the wonderful home care SAGE provided to her mother years ago. “SAGE helped my mother live to 100,” she said. Like her fellow volunteers, Cahoon, who just received her vaccine in March, said she never questioned if she should or should not continue to help. “These people depend on us. I live alone, my family is located in Ontario and California and I have been unable to visit them for over a year. Volunteering organizes my life, gives it a sense of purpose and motivates me. It makes me feel good knowing I am helping people. I consider Meals on Wheels to be my family in NJ. This is what you do for family.”