Press Sighting: "Hot meals on hotter wheels"

December 21, 2010

From today's Bergen Record:  "John Foley usually delivers meals to seniors and the homebound as a volunteer with the Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels program in a 2005 Saturn.  Monday was a little bit different. Instead of the Saturn, Foley sat in the front passenger seat of a black, 2006 Maserati Quattroporte...."

"I've never been in one before," he said. "I'm sure the average person doesn't necessarily sit in a Maserati every day. If you hit the lottery, maybe."

Four other volunteers had similar experiences for a few hours on Monday as they traded in their everyday cars for a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, a Dodge Viper and a supercharged Range Rover.

The cars were donated by Gotham Dream Cars, a rental company with offices in Englewood and Dania Beach, Fla. Company workers, including the chief operating officer, drove the volunteers.

It is part of the company's effort to highlight the work of the Pascack Meals on Wheels and encourage people to be more charitable, especially during the holiday season, said Rob Ferretti, the company's chief operating officer.

"It's a treat for the people who do this every day, who go out of their way to be charitable and kind," Ferretti said.

The company also is donating 5 percent of all gift certificates bought in December to the Pascack Meals on Wheels, he said.

Jeanne Martin, director of the Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels Program, said she was a bit hesitant when the idea was first pitched to her.

"Many of our people struggle to pay their bills, and having the high-end cars — what kind of picture does that paint?" she asked. "They were very honest, and they very much wanted to help our program. I said, 'Why not?' "

The Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels, which is based in Westwood, delivers a hot and cold meal daily to clients in 23 Bergen County towns.

The organization's volunteers delivered meals to 260 individuals last year, Martin said. Some clients pay $7.75 for two meals a day. Others, depending on their income level, receive a subsidy, Martin said.

Seniors, especially those in their late 80s and who no longer drive, often are forgotten, she said.

"No one knows about them except their mailmen," she said. "Their kids live outside of the state. They can be unseen and forgotten. This is to raise awareness that communities need to watch our for the seniors in their towns."

In Bergen County, which has more seniors than any other county in the state, the problem for seniors is not having access to food, but eating the right kinds of food.

"It's not senior hunger so much as senior food insecurity," Martin said. "A lot of seniors out there don't eat properly — like over-the-counter soup, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but not having vegetables or fresh fruit. We provide that."

From the staging area at CareOne at Valley on Old Hook Road in Westwood, the volunteers dispersed to New Milford, Park Ridge, Montvale, Washington Township, Dumont, Oradell, Westwood, Emerson, and Haworth, according to Martin.

Camille Hartwig, who lives in Emerson, made her rounds in a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder while her husband, George, had a turn in a Viper.

Camille Hartwig, who would have used a "little old Prius" on her rounds on Monday, commended Gotham Dream Cars for donating the use of its cars for a day.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," she said. "If more companies did it, we could do so much more for so many people. It's a great way to give back. … Contributions have declined. People are not able to give or are not willing to give of their time and money. This was such a nice and pleasant surprise."

John Reide whose 91-year-old aunt has been a Meals on Wheels client for about two years, said he appreciates the service the volunteers provide.

"It's wonderful — the convenience, the dependability, the compassion," he said. "It's so great they can give their time. We really do appreciate it. It's great to have neighbors like that."

Reide said it was "fantastic" that Gotham Dream Cars donated the cars and drivers for the morning.

"Let's do some more of that," he said when he heard about the program. "One good deed deserves another."

"By the way, if they want to leave that [Maserati] in the driveway, that would be fine with me," he quipped.

Original story:

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