Meal program brings residents, local volunteers together at Grace Court

April 05, 2018

With the help of state funding, Grace Court has started a twice-a-week meal program that provides more than just food.

Volunteers Elijah Kimble (center), his grandmother, Ethel Kimble (second from right), and Grace Court team members prepare and serve meals for the residents as part of the meal program.

 

When you walk through the sliding doors at Grace Court on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, it seems like just another evening at the Presby-sponsored community in Yeadon, Delaware County.

But catch the elevator downstairs to the kitchen and dining hall area, and you’ll see a bustling scene that tells an entirely different story.

On these Tuesday and Thursday evenings, the residents gather here for the camaraderie and a hearty meal as part of Grace Court’s meal program, which began this past January.

As part of the program, which operates in conjunction with Delaware County’s Office of Services for the Aging (COSA) that acquires funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the residents of Grace Courts, which features 100 units of Section 8-202 affordable housing, pay a small stipend to come and enjoy a full, catered meal twice a week.

The residents say the small stipend is worth everything the program can offer, and that’s more than just a healthy meal.

“It’s nice because we do have people here who are unable to cook,” said Alma Bailey, who has lived at Grace Court for the last 14 years. “It’s really nice and it’s very helpful to those people and to all of us, really.

“The reality is that some people just like to stay in their apartments. This program helps bring them out. It’s good not only for the food, but because we can all socialize. So it’s great for everyone. And the food is very good. I hope we keep this up for as long as we can.”

For some residents, it’s not just about a warm, healthy meal and the chance to socialize and make a new friend or two. There’s deeper meaning than that – one that may not seem deep on the surface, but can go a long way.

“It’s easy and it saves us money,” said resident Henrietta LaRue. “That’s big for us. A couple dollars a week here for a good meal can go a long way.”

While it has been a huge hit with the residents for a variety of reasons, the meal program could not come to fruition without the efforts of volunteers from a local Delaware County church who assist building manager Nyhema Thomas and her staff with preparing the meals in the kitchen and serving them to the residents.

Among those volunteers is 17-year-old Elijah Kimble, who attends Upper Darby High School during the day then meets his grandmother so the two can drive over to Grace Court and help out with the meal program and interact with the residents.

“I really enjoy this and I enjoy the serving and just hanging out with the residents,” said Elijah, who plans on attending college for information technology. “Just the serving and getting to see everyone smile, that’s what gives you a good feeling. That’s what I’m here for and that’s why I like doing this.”

It’s not hard to see where that comes from in Elijah as his grandmother, Ethel Kimble, has the same feelings on what volunteering and serving means to her.

“It’s nice and I really do enjoy it,” Ethel said. “We volunteer here with nice people and we volunteer here for nice people. “

The residents’ joy with the meal program is the reward needed for Thomas, who racked her brain for months looking for an idea to use the rehabbed, furnished space in Grace Court’s basement to the residents’ benefit.

If the residents’ testimonials and support are any indication, Thomas’ hard work has paid off.

“I had been researching and trying to find ways for how we can be creative to get something in here that isn’t costly and the residents can still benefit from it,” Thomas said.

“Lo and behold, in January, we were able to kick it off here at Grace Court. It started off with about 30 people signed up. Right now, we’re almost at the 50 mark.

“The residents, they come down consistently. And, as they said, it’s not just about the food. It’s about being able to come together and talk to each other and see each other. Right now, two days a week is perfect. But I’m thinking that if it continues to grow in popularity here with the residents, we can grow the number of days a week. Time will tell.”