May 5

Joe Coen of Newton: Volunteer Home Delivered Meal Driver

Joe Coen, a lifelong Newton resident, retired on March 4 after working in MIT’s Event Office for 21 years. An energetic man, Joe planned to travel, send his friends postcards and visit Boston sites in a way that he never had time for while working. A week later the world changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joe immediately knew he had to re-focus his energy and decided to do some volunteer work. The first idea that popped into his mind was taking care of senior citizens. Joe remembered how much his mother, Eleanor, appreciated home delivered meals and he called Springwell to see if they needed volunteers to deliver meals during the crisis. The need was urgent, and Joe launched his retirement by signing up to deliver meals to seniors.

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 Joe was swift.  Joe signed on in March to join the more than 90 volunteers currently keeping the non-profit’s home-delivered meal program on the road.

Joe says, “I feel good providing much needed meals during the pandemic. Doing this one thing gives me purpose and I like it. My mother, Eleanor, who passed away in 2016 at age 94, wanted to live in her own home during her ‘journey of aging.’  Home delivered meals, home care and personal care services, provided through Springwell, were important for her wellbeing and allowed me and my siblings to continue working knowing she was well cared for during the day.” Joe shared that “for a senior who is alone, seeing the face of a meal delivery driver each day is a happy, welcome point of connection. The nutrition provided by the meal is so important because often isolated seniors stop eating because of the challenges of buying and preparing food.”

Springwell and meal recipients are grateful for Joe 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.