Newhouse MVJ 2019

Serving More Than Meals

In Syracuse, New York, sits a 2-mile area known to a select few as Route 17, a neighborhood overrun with crime, low-income dilapidated housing and poverty; however, one woman, Mary Driscoll, with dedication to duty and a will to pay respect to her mother, takes on the route every week to feed her Meals on Wheels clients.

Driscoll, an administrator for Erie Enriched Housing Program by day, an independent living community, has taken her passion for helping one step further by relinquishing her lunch break each week to feed lower-income and disabled members of Syracuse’s roughest delivery path on the Southside.

“I thought it better for me to service this area rather than someone who would not be aware of the potential dangers,” she said.

Driscoll works that particular route since she’s accustom to working the rougher areas of Syracuse through previous jobs such as a social worker or with the Veterans Affairs Office, and she’s comfortable in high-crime and low-resource areas.

She started with Meals on Wheels to pay homage to her mother who previously volunteered with the organization for four decades.

“In the 1970s, my mother volunteered for Meals on Wheels, making meals in her kitchen and delivering them. In 2014, my mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s and was not able to volunteer, so I stepped into this program.”

Each week, Driscoll drives the 5 minutes from her work to the Meals on Wheels Downtown Syracuse location at 300 Burt St. where the other volunteers greet her warmly as she gathers the meals for her 15 clients.

Tina Casella, the volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels Syracuse, says the organization wouldn’t survive without volunteers like Mary.

“The dedication from people like Mary is invaluable to the organization because we couldn’t deliver our more than 750 meals daily that come in to drive and deliver the meals for us,” she said. “ They are also the eyes and ears out on the road and able to report back if something doesn’t look right with the client’s environment.”

During her one-hour delivery schedule, the five-year volunteer zigzags her way through multiple streets of the Southside, exchanging laughs and conversation with her clients, while providing them with hot and cold meals to help them through the week.

However, Driscoll’s deliveries sometimes require some extra attention.

“Once when I stopped [at Mr. Crawford’s house] on a cold, snowy Friday, he came out to get the meals and commented that he had no water service,” she said. “He asked if I would go to the corner store for him and get water for the dogs.”

Driscoll said she feels the need to support her community and wants to pay it forward to the community.

“I have been multiply blessed in my life and feel that these blessings require me to give back to the world,” she said. “As so many in our community are hungry and unable to secure and/or produce healthy food, Meals on Wheels fits my concept of reaching out to those in need.”