The need to find a new source of volunteers to deliver meals to the homebound elderly in Brooklyn Heights gave rise to a thriving involvement of Brooklyn Union/Keyspan with the Meals On Heels (MOH) program of Heights and Hill Community Council. The Council, a nonprofit agency founded in 1971, to help older adults live as independently and safely as possible, recruited program volunteers from Brooklyn Union/Keyspan, a local energy company and corporate neighbor.
MOH is so named because of the narrow, one-way streets of Brooklyn Heights that make delivery on foot more efficient than using a vehicle. When the program started more than 25 years ago, there was an abundance of homemakers and retirees who were available to volunteer. As times changed, Heights and Hill looked to Brooklyn Union, which has headquarters located within a short walk from the MOH area. With revenues of $1.2 billion and 2,700 employees, 800 of whom are located at their headquarters, Brooklyn Union seemed like the ideal partner.
Over the years, the program has grown to include employees from management, middle management and union personnel. Twenty-one business areas have been represented. The current roster of 45 is sufficient to allow for two volunteers to deliver meals each day of the week. The actual delivery takes less than an hour and is accomplished as part of a lunch hour.
The operation of the Brooklyn Union MOH program is relatively simple. Volunteers are recruited by current members as well as through internal publicity about the program. They receive a volunteer manual, instructions on what to do in an emergency and street maps of the neighborhood. Each new volunteer accompanies an "old-timer" before assuming full status. A Brooklyn Union employee acts as the in-house coordinator and schedules the volunteers. In addition to daily informal contact, the staff of Heights and Hill meets formally with the volunteers periodically and publish a volunteer newsletter to talk about the agency, hear concerns and give insights into the aging process.
Some of the volunteers have formed attachments to one or more of the older people receiving meals. On several occasions, Brooklyn Union volunteers have alerted Heights and Hill staff to potentially dangerous client situations. More than one volunteer has testified to the sense of satisfaction he or she has received from making a real difference in people's lives.