When the Village of Bergen was forced to scale down its workforce due to the coronavirus, Mayor Anna Marie Barclay told administrative assistant Cortney Gale she needed a project to keep her busy.
“Little did I know I’d end up running a meal delivery program for the village and town to support our seniors who are not getting out, as well as families struggling financially through this crisis,” Barclay said. “The worst is not being able to hold my little grandsons. We are down to one person in the office and one person in each department, so it’s hard to get much accomplished.”
Barclay started looking for something to do to support the community, especially those who are vulnerable or elderly. She checked with the Bergen Methodist Church who was not able to prepare their weekly Wednesday night meals, with the social distancing mandate. She also checked with St. Brigid’s Church in Bergen and Our Lady of Mercy in Le Roy, where she learned chef Don Antinore was no longer able to prepare his Friday night fish fries.
Dawn Brinson, who cooks at the Methodist Church with volunteers Connie Fiedler and Carrie Wies, said they would be willing to prepare a meal on Monday and Wednesday for home delivery, and Antinore agreed to prepare a Friday meal with support from Father Matthew Phelan and many of their volunteers at Our Lady of Mercy.
Barclay asked all of her staff at the village office to give her names of people they knew who might benefit from a home-delivered meal. This included seniors and families who might be out of money.
She made 70 phone calls and on March 27, Barclay, her husband, David, and village volunteers made their first delivery of 40 fish dinners. Last Friday, that number had increased to 55.
David Barclay made a spreadsheet of homes who wanted meal delivery and developed a route for each driver.
Volunteers included one lineman, one DPW employee, one water treatment plant employee and one member of the office staff. Village employees rotate their volunteer duties.
Village resident Kathy Fink also delivers meals. The Barclays drive to Le Roy to pick up the Friday meals and bring them to the volunteer drivers.
When word spread of their mission, Leslie Hill, who does wedding flowers, donated carnations for each meal recipient.
One day, Bob Bausch, the former Genesee County legislative chairman, volunteered to deliver a route. He lives in Bergen.
Barclay said they are taking every precaution when delivering meals. Drivers wear masks and place the meals on the recipient’s porch, or in some cases on a chair the resident has placed there. Then they ring the doorbell and go back to their vehicle.
Barclay said they have received monetary donations from the community to help with purchase of food, and ANG Supermarket in Churchville donated 20 pounds of ground beef.
In addition to their home delivered meals, Bergen supported their community with a $500 donation from the Friends of Bergen to the North Bergen Presbyterian Church’s food pantry. Barclay said the food pantry is open on Wednesday and Saturday.
The village also wants to bring some cheer to the children in Bergen, and on Saturday, the Easter Bunny will ride on a fire truck through the village.
Barclay said she is confident they are doing some good in this time of crisis.
“It’s great to be able to help,” she said.
Photos courtesy of Anna Marie Barclay.
Top photo: Sandy and Norm Pawlak, left, and David and Anna Marie Barclay load their vehicles with meals for seniors who are confined to their homes during this coronavirus pandemic.
Below, Bergen Mayor Anna Marie Barclay, left, and village lineman Matt Sluberski set off to deliver meals to seniors, a service Barclay started to fill time while village operations are scaled back during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bottom, Zack Kuter, an employee of the Village of Bergen DPW, is one of the volunteers who delivers meals to seniors during the current coronavirus pandemic.