Mobile Meals of Essex is a not-for-profit nutrition program serving 11 Essex County communities. Staffed with a full-time coordinator and two part-time cooks, the program depends on a legion of dedicated volunteers to package and deliver meals to seniors who are largely homebound or no longer able to cook for themselves, as well as other who are unable to prepare meals due to physical handicap, convalescence from illness or inadequate cooking facilities.
In many instances, the Mobile Meals volunteer is a client's only contact with the outside world. Often, this personal contact is just as important as the food itself. For many program participants, Mobile Meals is more than three nutritious meals a day. It is knowing that, once a day, there will be a familiar face at the door.
One face that has become familiar to many of the clients is that of Richard Male. Despite his own personal setbacks, Mr. Male performs above and beyond the call of duty. Several years ago, he suffered a cerebral aneurysm and was comatose and on a respirator for weeks, fighting for his life. He won the fight for his life, but lost the ability to control his body movements on his left side. Unable to return to his former position in the corporate world, it would have been easy for him to retreat, letting others do for him. Instead, he spends his days helping others. While most volunteers come in one day per week and deliver meals to approximately 10 clients, Mr. Male comes in five days a week and delivers meals to at least 20 clients, the equivalent of two volunteer routes. Moreover, he is always willing to take over part of another volunteer's route when necessary.
Volunteerism has become a full-time occupation for Mr. Male. In addition to delivering meals for Mobile Meals each morning, he finds the time to work behind the counter at the Kessler Gift Shop, drive for Hospice and perform volunteer work for the Union Congregational Church in town.
Richard Male is described by those he volunteers for as, "a tireless, energetic volunteer who has put aside personal setbacks that would render others helpless and built a meaningful life helping others less fortunate than himself."