He greets his regular visitors with a plastic fork and spoon tucked into the pocket of his flannel shirt. It’s 10:30 a.m., but Joe Celano gestures with his hands to “mangi, mangi.”
The ever-charismatic Celano, 95, who served as Hatboro’s mayor from 1982 through 2006, peels back the foil cover over his green beans and lasagna and encourages his meal deliverer, Betty Shepherd, to join him in dining – but not before serenading her in Italian.
It’s one of a dozen regular scenes that play out for Betty Shepherd and her husband John, of Horsham, as they deliver meals to residents of Hatboro, Horsham, Upper Moreland and Warminster as part of the .
“This is an excellent, rewarding volunteering opportunity,” John Shepherd said while taking Patch on his bi-weekly food delivery route. “The volunteers deliver both food and human contact.”
For their designated shift – a few hours every other week - community volunteers meet at the Warminster campus of Abington Memorial Hospital to help pack and deliver, on average, a total of 40 meals per day Monday through Friday, according to Donna Homiller, coordinator of the Hatboro-based meal delivery operation. Although people have never had to be turned away, 48 total daily meals is really the max for the nonprofit organization’s slim budget and roughly 80 volunteers.
And while clients on the four meal delivery routes can change weekly – if not daily, the Shepherds have had the chance to get to know some of the regulars, like Peg Rawlins, 90, of Upper Moreland. Rawlins, who recently gave up driving, said she misses her independence, but enjoys seeing the Shepherds.
“I don’t get much company,” Rawlins said while the couple visited with her cocker spaniel, Honey Bear. “God bless you. I don’t know what people would do without you guys.”
Betty Shepherd has volunteered with the Bux-Mont Meals on Wheels since its inception in 1977, and, in fact, is one of its founding board members.
“I would plunk my little kids in the car and deliver meals,” she said, adding that times have changed. “Women were not working … Over the years our volunteer force translated to retired people.”
One thing that’s remained consistent according to Ron Tempest, Bux-Mont Meals on Wheels president of the board, is the need for volunteers. But, he said the organization has been lucky to have a “pretty steady” base of committed helpers.
“If you have them, they’re there,” Tempest said.
To learn more about volunteering opportunities with Bux-Mont Meals on Wheels, or to request the addition of a loved one for meal delivery, call Donna Homiller at 215-443-9784.