MAINE, Maine — The Eastern Area Agency on Aging is a non-profit organization that provides services for seniors with disabilities in four mid and Downeast Maine counties. The agency serves senior citizens living in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Washington counties. One of their services is to delivering meals and food boxes door to door to people in need.
NEWS CENTER Maine met with volunteers back in February before the coronavirus pandemic caused concern for just how the agency would meet a growing need. Now the agency is back to serving those who most need it, including the Meals on Wheels program and the Senior Food Box program.
Volunteers deliver meals and food boxes to homebound senior citizens. Gary and Barb O'Brien are two of the volunteers that have dedicated their time to deliver meals but also provide friendship and wellness check-ups to senior citizens.
"We are currently serving for meals on wheels about 160 people a week," said Robin Ladd, the Nutrition Area Manager of Piscataquis County at the Eastern Area Agency on Aging.
Gary and Barb have been volunteers for about 10 years now. Back when there was still some snow on the ground, there was concern COVID-19 needs might overwhelm the agency with people in need. With things flattening out for some now, the focus is back on helping those in need.
"They are so happy that they're able to get the commodity food which helps tremendously to a lot of these people, that don't have a car, don't drive, and they are pretty much home-bound," said Barb O'Brien.
Every week, they drive more than 100 miles to different communities to deliver meals. Along with those meals, the couple delivers company, friendships, and even a wellness check.
They focus their energy on what they enjoy most, to help others.
"I come in and I'll ask them how they're doing, how they feel, for a lot of them...they have nobody else, they are by themselves," said Gary O'Brien.
Norman Peterson is legally blind. He is thankful for Gary and Barb's visits.
"It's been extremely a blessing and not only that but I get to see people, they come to my house and I get to visit with them," said Peterson.
Peterson says he receives much more than a meal.
"I come right out and we get to talk and next thing we know half an hour has gone by and the poor customer next is still waiting for their meal," said Peterson.
Right next door is neighbor, Paula Bolton.
"If it wouldn't for Gary I probably would've gone hungry during the day. They really saved my life because I was going downhill, I really was cause I don't cook," said Paula Bolton, who benefits from the meals.
Paula says this food box can hold her for two weeks.
And Gary keeps an eye out making sure all the seniors they visit are feeling well.
"He's kind of quiet I gotta break him in, and it'll take me about a year to break him in but I will, I'll get it done," said Bolton.
"It's really gratifying knowing that you are making a difference for them," said Gary O'Brien.
The Eastern Area Agency on Aging's number is 800-432-7812.
RELATED: "They're heroes." Housekeepers have one of the most important jobs in Maine's hospitals during coronavirus, COVID-19