Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Friendship Trays

Most of the stories that show up on this website come in "over the transom," which is an old newspaper expression dating back when doors HAD transoms.

Well, a terrific story came in over the transom last month, and promptly "slipped through the cracks." (Which is an old excuse for, "somebody screwed up!")

You may already have seen the story; it was about our own amazing Jerry Gaudet and family!


Adults in group homes are delivering meals to their neighbors in need

Pat Gaudet began volunteering at Friendship Trays in the mid- ’80s. Husband Jerry joined her on Fridays when he retired in 1991. And now their son Rick helps deliver meals, too. Rick lives in one of the many group homes that have care-givers and clients spending part of their day delivering Friendship Trays. “The reception they get at

(pictured above:
All in the family: Pat Gaudet, left, began delivering Friendship Trays in about 1985. Husband Jerry joined her when he retired in 1991. Today, son Rick is part of a group home team that delivers three days a week.)

Friendship Trays is wonderful,” says Jerry. “Everybody lights up and showers them with love.” A North Carolina policy change involving custodial care programs last summer left many group homes scrambling to find daytime activities for their residents. Friendship Trays Volunteer Coordinator Lani Lawrence remembers being called by one group home employee, who sent a care-giver and some clients to deliver a route. Lawrence gave the new volunteers the usual warm welcome and detailed instructions on the task. “Word spread in the group-home community that this was a great place to serve,” Lawrence says. “It was phenomenal.” As of mid-March, 18 group homes send teams to deliver Friendship Trays. Teams include a care-giver and three to five clients. Some teams come once a week, others every every weekday. One team delivers trays to an adult day care center that serves other clients. Lawrence said the group-home teams have been as reliable or more reliable in their attendance than the general volunteer corps. Lawrence knows that some teams could stop delivering if, as gas prices rise, care-givers can no longer get reimbursed for driving the routes. One Charlotte provider has already stopped paying mileage. But Lawrence is hopeful, pointing out several care-givers whose mileage reimbursements were cut off have decided to pay for the gas themselves because they see how much their clients gain from the experience. Jerry Gaudet says he and Pat did not steer their son’s group home to Friendship Trays. And he says his son may think of delivering meals more as something to do than as volunteering. No matter, says Executive Director Lucy Bush Carter. “We are grateful for their service.” Pat Gaudet, reflecting on when she became a volunteer in the 1980s, says, “It was something right here that I could do.... We have met a lot of really neat folks.” Now, group-home residents can say the same thing.

Fast friends, first responders

Friendship Trays delivers meals to allow the ailing and infirm to stay in their homes as long as feasible. But that means that volunteer drivers become not just the recipients’ close friends but sometimes their first responders, particularly for recipients living alone. Among the Gaudets’ experiences, with Jerry Gaudet’s comments:

– Calling 911 for a recipient whose oxygen tank had failed overnight. – Whipping out a handkerchief to stop blood spurting two feet up from a recipient’s kidney dyalisis injection site. The recipient was unaware she was bleeding. “She might have bled to death.”

– Being one of a handful of mourners at a recipent’s graveside service. “The folks bringing meals to Joe were the only people in his life.”

– Bringing together for a birthday party a CMS student, who had made a placemat, with the 100-year-old recipient who was so taken by the gesture that she hung the placemat on her wall. “Friendship Trays played a big part in extending her independence.”

“We’ve been struck over the years at how many people live alone,” says Pat. “We may be the only people they see all day.”

(Wow! Congratulations Pat and Jerry. I hope the next time I see you will be at our 55th reunion in May....and not knocking on my door at the home.....with tray in hand. Not yet, anyway.