XENIA — They have a combined 74 years in the “helping” industry.
So it should come as no surprise to see retired Cox Elementary School teacher JoAnne Earley and retired Greene Memorial Hospital nurse Eileen O’Brien delivering meals for the Xenia Adult Recreation and Services Center, doing what they can to brighten the day of others.
“When we retired we both missed helping people,” Earley said. “That’s what drew us initially into delivering meals. We could pay it forward.”
So once a week, the peppy pair hop into a vehicle and make the rounds to the myriad residents who are unable to get out and get their own food.
Earley, who will soon be 76, has been delivering meals for seven years. O’Brien, 82, joined about a year later and helps with navigation.
“I’m not really good with directions, I get lost easily,” Earley joked.
Together, they pass out as many as 20 meals every Friday.
“We’re known as the Friday Girls,” O’Brien said.
But it’s not just food Earley and O’Brien bring Xenia’s shut-ins. They bring holiday cheer any time of year.
“We dress up for the holidays,” O’Brien said.
At Easter time, they may dress like bunnies. At the end of October they wear Halloween costumes. If there is a holiday, they will be dressed for it.
“They look for us to be something,” Earley said.
O’Brien recalled one resident who has Alzheimer’s and had a stoic look on his face every week. But when he saw them in costume, the man finally showed an expression. Another man likes to recite poetry and even showed the ladies he can say the alphabet from Z to A.
“It’s fun to see them smile,” O’Brien said. “There’s a lot of interesting people out there in world.”
And it’s not just costumes the residents look forward to seeing. For many, daily meal delivery is the sole interaction they have with other people.
“They look forward to us and I’m sure they look forward to whoever (delivers meals),” O’Brien said. “They’ll be at the door.
Earley and O’Brien get as much enjoyment out of delivering the meals as the residents do receiving them.
“You get attached to them,” O’Brien said. When a couple of their regular meal recipients died, they both attended the funerals.
“The families all know us,” O’Brien said.
When they aren’t on the road delivering meals and good feelings, Earley and O’Brien can be found volunteering in other ways. They help run the clothes closet at the Christ Episcopal Church, taking donations from the community and helping the needy get some items to wear.
That’s actually kind of how the two became acquainted. While munching on some food with the “breakfast club” — started by her now-deceased husband, Bob — O’Brien heard Earley talking about the under-staffed situation at the clothes closet.
“She said she’d come up and help me,” Earley said.
Said O’Brien, “I’m still helping.”
The two also gave some of their time at the senior center’s recent Veteran’s Day dinner and they help deliver meals for the annual Thanksgiving dinner, also held at the senior center.
It gives both the warm and fuzzies to help out any way they can, but they especially look forward to being the Friday Girls.
“Blessed that I am able to do it,” Earley said.
Said O’Brien, “My kids think it’s funny that I deliver meals to the elderly. (I’m happy) that as old as I am, I can still (help) people.”
It makes sense, since that’s what these two have always been about.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.