Phoenixville Meals on Wheels volunteers get extra help

Phoenixville Hospital meals on Wheels volunteers receive their delivery instructions. Photo by Kevin Hoffman/21st Century Media

PHOENIXVILLE — On their Meals on Wheels rounds this week, the Trainies had a little company in their Toyota Sienna minivan.

Phoenixville Community Health Foundation CEO and president Lou Beccaria rode along with Martin and Martine Trainie to help pass out meals to homebound members of the community as part of Meals on Wheels’ Community Champions Week.

“(It’s helping to improve the overall quality of life of people, which is an overall goal,” of the foundation, Beccaria said of Meals on Wheels before he hopped into the white minivan. “We’re concerned about the elderly and other people who have disabilities and can’t get out and about.”

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The Trainies (pronounced Try-nee-ays) head out approximately seven times a month on their route handing out meals to those who need a little help. They and more than four dozen others who help out are all volunteers and don’t receive any pay for their efforts.

“I think it’s normal to give back to society, you know?” Martine said with a light French accent matching her husband’s. “When you feel fine, you give back. You have to help others.”

Meals on Wheels typically benefits seniors, the ill and others who can’t easily leave their homes.

Martine is a 17-year veteran of Meals on Wheels. Her husband, Martin, joined her after he retired. Asked about his participation, he described himself as “just the driver.”

“She is actually the doer,” he said.

Despite what Martin said, both put in legwork, carrying coolers full of food and hustling up stoops or across porches to hand off the meals and sometimes briefly visit with recipients.

Monday, the meal included chicken with mashed potatoes, some assorted vegetables and fruit cocktail for dessert. Beccaria helped carry the cold food cooler.

One of those who received the meals said he’s grateful for the assistance.

“It helps out,” said the man, whose identity is being kept anonymous. “I don’t have to worry about cooking one meal a day.”

Dorothy Wood, chairwoman of the Phoenixville chapter of Meals on Wheels, said they were founded Sept. 1, 1973.

“We’re not just a new kid on the block,” she said.

Joining Wood on the steering committee is co-chairwomen Evey Nissley and Linda Keenan. Alma Zadrejko serves as treasurer.

Beccaria wasn’t alone in lending a hand to the regular Meals on Wheels volunteers. Other staff members from the Community Health Foundation including Carol Poinier, Lynn Pike Hartman and Holly Megay joined the two other routes which help serve up to 30 in Phoenixville.

“We’ve been looking forward to it,” said Beccaria, who received a letter from Jeani Purcell, the Meals on Wheels of Chester County director who helped coordinate the special event. “As soon as we got (the letter), I brought it to the staff’s attention and everybody said, ‘Oh yeah, this will be a good thing to do.’”

In addition to Beccaria and his cohort, Mayor Mike Speck participated in handing out meals Tuesday.

“(It’s a) great program,” he said. “I want to carry along the cause of Mayor Leo Scoda, who was very actively involved in this program and look forward to continuing the support of the program.”

“It is great,” Martine said of the program. “You get to talk to the people.”

She described getting to know some of those who have been on her route for some time.

“What about your boyfriend?” Martin asked with a smile.

“Oh, oui,” Martine replied, smiling back. “He’s very talkative.”

Those who benefit from the program leave envelopes for the deliverers to pick up on their way out with donations.

“Sometimes it’s $2. Sometimes it’s 75 cents,” Martine said. “It’s whatever they can give.”

Every house on the Trainies’ run had an envelope waiting.

At one house, Martine handed off a meal to a man shoveling Monday’s snow from the sidewalk of one of the recipients’ homes.

“Thank you so much. This helps,” he said to Martine before she turned back to the minivan to deliver the five meals remaining on the route. “God bless you.”

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.