In these dangerous winter conditions with downed trees and no power, the volunteers at Birdsboro Berks Encore are saving lives.
Holland native Inge “Inkie” Harmsen, Flying Hills, volunteers with Meals on Wheels four times a week, delivering meals and cooking in the kitchen.
On Wednesday, Jan. 29, Harmsen went out for her normal runs but when she got to the home of Meals on Wheels client and former volunteer Jultz Marino, 91, Birdsboro, something was different.
“Usually she’s in the kitchen, but she wasn’t there,” Harmsen said. Marino previously volunteered with Birdsboro Berks Encore, and knew Harmsen from working in the kitchen at the Birdsboro Community Center.
Harmsen heard Marino sniffling in her bed.
“I found her in her bedroom. She said ‘feel my hands.’” Marino had no heat and was very cold. After covering Marino up with covers in bed (and assuring her that her cat, Lily, would be alright), Harmsen went to get help and called Bidsboro Berks Encore Center Manager Patty Barker. Barker alerted Marino’s family and called her son at Berks Fire Water Restorations, who responded immediately.
Harmsen went back to check that the heat was not turned off, but it was in fact, not working.
“It was 43 degrees when I walked into the house,” Marino’s nephew, Louis Tamburro, Birdsboro, said.
“[She] had six inches of water in her basement, no heat and no hot water,” Brad Roberts, Berks Fire Water Restorations, said. “I called the crew out to get her heat back up and running.”
When Roberts spoke to The Southern Berks News on Friday, Jan. 31, the water was removed and the basement was drying. He wanted to see her be able to stay in her home.
“I was just concerned for the lady,” Roberts said. “I didn’t want to see someone without heat.”
Tamburro took his aunt to her daughter’s home in Lancaster to stay for the night.
“By 11 a.m. [Thursday morning], the heat was back on,” Marino’s daughter, Cookie, said. “Meals on Wheels...Thank God for them, really. They really watch out for my mom.”
Currently, Birdsboro Berks Encore deliver to 64 Meals on Wheels clients, but that number is changing all the time. The volunteers care very much for their clients and realize their job is more than just delivering meals. For some clients, their Meals on Wheels delivery is the only time they get to socialize.
“Meals for Wheels is for people who don’t see people every day; we stop in and check on them,” Harmsen said. “A lot of people wouldn’t eat [without Meals on Wheels].”
As for Marino, her daughter reports she is “all warm and snuggled now” in her own home.