NORTH ADAMS - All Saints Episcopal Church is getting a little juice thanks to Brookfield Renewable Energy.
The church recently received a $3,000 grant from the Brookfield Renewable Energy Group's US Foundation. Thanks to a nomination from Brookfield's Bear Swamp Power operation in Florida, the All Saints Kitchen andMeals On Wheels program will use the funding to continue their work providing food for the elderly.
"Everyone is a volunteer here at the program, so the money is primarily used to buy food and supplies for the monthly meal," said Program Director Dianne Bleau. "We use the money to do a monthly meal, or around Thanksgiving if we need money, we can take from that too. We do get money from United Way for the Thanksgiving meal for seniors, but we only get so much from a grant, and then take the rest out of our budget." Although many of the seniors using elder services receive Meals on Wheels food during the week, there is no meal delivered on weekends. The All Saints Kitchen program gives seniors one meal per month, delivered right to their door.
"This gives seniors one more meal they may not have otherwise, or if there's a holiday, two, as meals on wheels during the week does not do holidays," said Bleau. "Usually we deliver on the same Sunday every month: We do the first Sunday of the month, but if it's a holiday weekend, we let St. Elizabeth's do that Sunday - they have the capacity to do two meals, while we have a small kitchen. But everyone has a schedule, and if something comes up, we can call on each other and give general support."
With current costs not far exceeding an average of $200 per month, the grant will let All Saints Kitchen cover a year of meals, as well as helping to cover Thanksgiving meals not covered by United Way grants.
The All Saints parish currently only has 110 people on the program, which Bleu says is lower than prior years.
"The other churches are similar. At one point we had closer to 141 a month," Bleu said. "So the numbers are down now, but that can change. If people go to the hospital or nursing home or pass away, those numbers go down. I run All Saints Kitchen, so I look at that list, and make sure people know who to go to, who not to go to."
Deacon Frank Ryan and Cathleen Ryan, started a program 28 years ago called Thanksgiving Meals for Seniors. Out of that, Ryan decided to start the Easter Meal out of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and eventually, to provide food at all the parishes in North County. All Saints Kitchen is one of those parishes.
"Each parish is responsible for securing funds for their own program, so this is just for All Saints Kitchen Meals on Wheels." Bleau said. "We rely solely on donations. We're always searching for grants. We found out there was a program, and Steve McConnell [at Brookfield's Florida power station] applied because there were grants there. I'm very thankful to them for considering us. Cathleen Ryan is the spearhead, is in touch with the elder service program, and takes management. They submit names of people who agree that they might need a meal on Sunday, and they have to be income-eligible, so most of the people are income-eligible and are participants in the weekday meals. She shows us the client list, and keeps us abreast of any meals on hold due to being in hospital, or stop if someone passed away."
All Saints Kitchen cooks the food, and has drivers to deliver the meals right to the clients, offering a once-amonth supplement to the unrelated Meals on Wheels program that covers clients on weekdays.
"The good thing about this program is not only are they getting a meal, but they have a visitor go in to see how things are going," said Bleau. "I have volunteers who have told me they went one winter and shoveled the walk so a person could get out of their home. Just this past Thanksgiving at a client's house, the door was wide open and nobody was there, so we investigated that. It's kind of like a safety feature, to make sure everyone is okay. Should they not have any contact with family members, or people move away for whatever reason, they may not see anyone on the weekends. But on that particular Sunday, it's a given that someone will be coming to their home with a meal, and do a little checkup."
"A lot of my volunteers have brought their children with them, so the clients have gotten to watch the children grow up, and it's kind of like an extended family, because they have the same people every month. There's a bond formed, and it's a relationship. There's one particular family whose little girl was an infant when they started, now she's two or three, the clients look forward to seeing them."
That monthly visit is now funded for another year, thanks to the newly received donation.
"There have been years when we didn't know if we were going to get money," Bleau said. "There's so much fundraising out there, things are drying up. We're really happy to have this, as we rely solely on donations. And we don't know if anyone in the future will donate. For nine years, we did a fundraiser in the fall, and this was the first year we had to cancel it, because sales were really down. This year we only had three reservations. So we're very happy to have this grant, this might help us stretch out for a long time."
For more information about the program, contact Dianne Bleau at 413-664-4175.