Monday, July 19, 2010



We have known Loretta for five or six years. When she first came to us for meals, she was often in her own world, talking to people we can't see and singing gospel songs. She liked to dress flamboyantly in those days, a blonde wig, a purple satin blouse. The last few months she has been calmer, more subdued in her choice of outfits, and also more in contact with what we call "reality." Tuesday night she arrived late and we were out of cheese sandwiches so she had to take a peanut butter sandwich. She came to me and began crooning words that were somewhere between a poem and a litany:

All I ever ate for lunch, kindergarten through 8th grade, a dry peanut butter sandwich and a carton of milk,
every day, a dry peanut butter sandwich and a carton of milk.
All around me other black children they have cornbread, greens, sometimes they have fried chicken I have
a dry peanut butter sandwich and a carton of milk - kindergarten through 8th grade, every day, all I have
a peanut butter sandwich and a carton of milk
every day, a dry peanut butter sandwich and a carton of milk.

There was a faraway look in her eyes - a memory that really hurt. The best I could do was get her a can of Vienna sausages, but I was rewarded with a big smile for this tiny crumb of grace. We have put her on the list to get a diabetic bag, which always has a cheese sandwich, on Tuesdays, an extra egg, Vienna sausages and a protein shake.


Mr. G, who is in his late 80s, has been coming to Home Van meals for about two years. He is not homeless, but - like so many old people on fixed incomes - doesn't have enough money for food. At least, that was my assumption. One of our volunteers, Steve Blay, is the founder of an organization called Friends Across the Ages that does outreach in nursing homes. Working with people in their 80s and 90s is what Steve does and he saw signs and symptoms of elder abuse. Mr. G. is very shy, but Steve got to know him and had a talk with him about his situation. Steve summarized what Mr. G had to say:

A while back my daughter asked me to sign something about the house. I didn’t want to sign anything and I told her so. But then some other day she came by the house with a man who had some paper for me to sign. She told me I had to sign it because they were about to start fixing up my house for me but they needed me to sign it first. I still didn’t want to but it was my daughter, and I thought I could trust her, so I signed it. I sure wish I wouldn’t have. After that people starting coming in my house throwing all my stuff out. They didn’t even ask me. I don’t know who they were, they just took all my stuff and threw it out of the house. That was stuff I worked my whole life for. Then the next thing they started replacing all the windows in the house. Those windows were just fine but they started replacing them all. Then my daughter told me that I would have to move out of my room. She told me I had to sleep in another room over by the kitchen. They took my old bedroom and locked the door. It’s still locked and I can’t get in there. I built this house by myself and now they are taking it from me. My daughter already has a house but they want to give it to my granddaughter I think.

We don't know the extent of Mr. G's difficulties, but Steve is going to continue looking into it. He found out that Mr. G's favorite restaurant is The Clock, so they are going to have dinner together soon. One thing we know for sure, Mr. G is heart-broken and needs to know that someone cares about him. That's what Friends Across the Ages is all about.

I am so grateful to have volunteers with many different abilities and sensitivities. The story of Mr. G also illuminates how important it is to have volunteers who just hang out and talk to the folks. Sometimes volunteers feel that if they don't have a task like dipping up soup or passing out candles, they aren't needed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sometimes I'll suggest to a volunteer who is jobless, "If you see someone sitting alone looking like their dog just got run over, go over and talk to them." Some of you readers come down and join us here and there, and I want you to know that you're always welcome and always needed, whether we have a specific job or not.

Thank you for all the water donations! We are continuing to bring out extra water three times a week and the folks really appreciate it. You are saving lives.

love and peace to all of you,

The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, creamy peanut butter, jelly, candles, white tube socks, bugspray, books and games. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at

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