Senator cooks, delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors

  • Sen. Jo Comerford, left, prepares home-delivered meals with LifePath’s Nutrition Program Assistant Karen Barber-Silva. She later delivered meals to homebound seniors. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Sen. Jo Comerford delivers a meal to 92-year-old Dorothy “Dot” Shippee in Deerfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/12/2019 2:12:21 PM
Modified: 7/12/2019 2:12:08 PM

When Sen. Jo Comerford visited with 92-year-old Dorothy “Dot” Shippee recently while delivering her Meals on Wheels lunch, she learned that Shippee and her husband, a World War II veteran who died in 1985, raised nine children.

Shippee of South Deerfield told Comerford, about her 28 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren, as well. And, she told her she has another on the way.

Earlier in the day, the democratic senator from Northampton had donned a hairnet and had gotten to work preparing meals in LifePath’s Meals on Wheels kitchen in Erving. Meals on Wheels delivers hot meals to seniors daily.

But, Comerford didn’t stop there, because she said she wanted to understand just how the agency delivers 535 meals every weekday to the local homebound.

So, she shadowed a volunteer and delivered to Shippee, and then to Eleanor Smith, 88, who after giving Comerford a hug when she found out who she was, told her she looks forward to seeing her Meals on Wheels driver each week.

“He’s so nice, and I enjoy the company,” Smith, whose husband died in 2006, said.

“I’m so grateful to have experienced the great work of LifePath and how the agency changes people’s lives,” Comerford said. “I am emboldened to fight even harder for elder security.”

Comerford also visited LifePath’s congregate dining center at the South County Senior Center the same day. The center serves hundreds of seniors each year at 16 sites around the area, including South Deerfield, offering a free hot, nutritious lunch and socialization for people ages 60 and older.

LifePath’s Meals on Wheels drivers deliver 1,137 meals to homebound clients annually. The total cost of a meal is $10.09, but LifePath suggests only a $3 donation per meal from its clients, and it continues to deliver meals, regardless of what a client can pay. Deliveries also include a “friendly wellness check” and follow-up with the client’s emergency contact, if there’s an issue.

Comerford said a society should be judged by how it treats its elders. She said a recent University of Massachusetts study looked at the resources elders require to age in place and meet their individual needs and found that 61 percent living in the state live below the index cutoff line for minimum required resources, which means their income doesn’t allow them to age in place independently and meet those basic needs.

“In fact, because of our relatively high cost of living, Massachusetts is the second-worst state in the nation for elder economic security, second only to Mississippi,” she said.

Comerford said she has filed a few elder-focused bills since she took office in January. Those include an act that would allow spouses to serve as caregivers (S28), one supporting equal access to community care for elders and the disabled (S668) and one that would improve the earned-income credit for working families (S1614). She said she has also co-sponsored several bills that would affect elders.


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