Apr 30

Eugenie Coakley of Watertown: Volunteer Home Delivered Meal Driver

As a statistician and epidemiologist, Eugenie Coakley, a Watertown resident, became keenly aware of COVID-19 when her employer, John Snow Inc., began tracking the virus before it was diagnosed in the United States. When the virus got to Massachusetts, Eugenie wanted to help others. She learned about the need for home delivered meal drivers from the Watertown Community Foundation list serve and jumped on the opportunity. Eugenie, an experienced food service volunteer, knew immediately the role was right for her. John Snow Inc. encourages their staff to find ways to help.

Springwell, a local non-profit serving older adults and caregivers with in-home services and supports, provides daily meals for over 800 seniors in Belmont, Brookline, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, and Weston. When COVID-19 hit, Springwell’s meal programs became an essential service for a vulnerable population. The Home Delivered Meals program faced challenges immediately when an employment service closed under the statewide emergency order in March. The organization quickly developed and deployed a volunteer driver recruitment program, and the response from people like Eugenie was swift.  Eugenie signed on in March to join the more than 90 volunteers currently keeping the non-profit’s home-delivered meal program on the road.

“Well prepared nutritious food is so important. That is the mission of the program and it is done with incredible care. The work is hard and coordinating the logistics during this pandemic is more challenging than ever. I am impressed with Springwell’s thoughtful training and management of all the new volunteers. I feel a connection to people and feel like I am helping. I find it humbling and empowering,” says Eugenie. She chuckles about it being humbling as she recalls missing a turn and having to navigate a tricky route back to her delivery destination on one of her first days.

“Older adults have a resiliency. In ‘normal times’ they may face some challenges with aging but during the pandemic they cannot do what they usually do, and they still keep going while isolated. That is strength and it is so beautiful,” adds Eugenie.

Springwell and meal recipients are grateful for Eugenie and the other delivery drivers every day. While the volunteer driving program has had a robust response, the organization has an ongoing need to recruit the volunteers it will need to depend on for the foreseeable future. More information about the volunteer home-delivered meals initiative here, and Springwell’s other volunteer programs here.