Senior Meal Delivery

Crews bring lasagna and connection to the locked-in elderly starved for a friendly face (video)

Mary Schweitzer-Burgmeier and Gary Burgmeier
Mary Schweitzer-Burgmeier and her husband Gary are recipients of food deliveries from PEACE of Syracuse, which delivers meals daily to seniors and the who can’t shop for themselves, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Mary suffers multiple health issues that make exposure to COVID-19 almost assuredly fatal. N. Scott Trimble | strimble@syracuse.comN. Scott Trimble | strimble@syra

Reprinted from
Original publication on 5/1/20 at 6:00 AM
By Marnie Eisenstadt |

Syracuse, N.Y. — She put on a polka-dotted dress and an ivory beaded necklace. He wore a gray shirt and a matching SU cap. Then they went on their one outing of the day.

To the front porch.

Mary Schweitzer-Burgmeier sat in her wheelchair and her husband, Gary, stood. They both waved as the van pulled up.

Their eyes smiled from above their homemade masks as Sally Ward and her son Zakery got out.

Many days, Sally and Zak are the only people the Burgmeiers see face to face. The mother and son deliver food to the couple, along with roughly 30 others each day, for PEACE Inc.

Since the pandemic began, nearly 100,000 meals have been delivered to seniors and shut-ins in Onondaga County. The deliveries are being done by nonprofit agencies and volunteers. PEACE delivers 2,200 meals a week to seniors.

Many of them are people like Mary and Gary, who used to go daily to a senior center for lunch.

But Mary and Gary weren’t just going to the senior center for the food. They and the thousands of others were going to see their friends. To play a game, talk politics, learn a craft, brag about their grandkids. They were going so they could be with other people. They were going to be less alone.

Now, those thousands of seniors, at the highest risk of death from coronavirus, must be alone.

“It’s ironic that the thing we need to keep the virus under control can make older people have more decline,” said Dr. Sharon Brangman, head of geriatrics at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Our nation was already facing an epidemic of loneliness, Brangman said.

“It’s just been heightened now 10-fold because of everything that’s going on,” she said.

Some seniors have access to technology and know how to use it, so they are able to fill the physical gaps with virtual connections. They can talk to the grandkids on Facetime and Zoom with the bridge club.

But many do not have the access or the know-how to do that, Brangman said. And then there’s lost physical touch and human connection. There is no substitute for that.

It’s not just a common-sense notion that loneliness is bad for people; there’s science behind it. Studies have found that loneliness, and the depression that comes with it, can increase blood pressure and worsen chronic conditions. It can also speed up cognitive decline, Brangman said. One study found that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

That doesn’t mean seniors would be safer if they were venturing out. It means that the opportunities to reach out and connect with people who are isolated are more meaningful than ever, Brangman said.

So the people who set out to deliver thousands of meals each week are also bringing something more valuable than lasagna and turkey sandwiches. They are an ear to listen, even if only for a few minutes. And they are a real smile from another live human being, even if it’s behind a mask.

Delivering meals and more
Sally Ward and her son Zakery deliver food for PEACE of Syracuse Thursday, April 23, 2020. PEACE delivers meals almost daily to seniors and the needy who can’t shop for themselves, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. N. Scott Trimble | strimble@syracuse.comN. Scott Trimble | strimble@syra

When Sally Ward and her son drive the delivery van full of blue coolers, they are checking on people who may see no one else. The Wards are reminding them they matter.

Food deliveries are the largest outreach to seniors, but there are other efforts. The YMCA has been calling seniors just to talk and check in on them on a regular basis. And the town of DeWitt has weekly “listening calls” where seniors can call in, listen and talk to a life coach.


Patricia Morales
Patricia Morales of Syraucse benefits from the PEACE food pantry of Syracuse, who delivers meals to seniors and the needy who can’t shop for themselves, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Mary suffers multiple health issues that make exposure to COVID-19 almost assuredly fatal. N. Scott Trimble | strimble@syracuse.comN. Scott Trimble | strimble@syra

The dog immediately starts barking from inside the yellow house when Sally and Zak pull up to the house on Syracuse’s West Side.

Hi, Luna, Sally calls out to the dog.

Patricia Morales swings the door open and waves.

She knows Sally from Sally’s regular job. She usually runs the weatherization program for low-income homeowners at PEACE and once helped Morales. Since that program isn’t operating now because of the pandemic, Sally is helping with food deliveries; Zak volunteers.

Morales and her husband go nowhere, except to doctor’s appointments. They have a litany of health problems that make them high risk for coronavirus, including a recent heart attack and emphysema.

“It’s hard,” Morales says. “We’re scared.”

Some days, one of their kids may bring the grandkids by so they can wave from the car.

Morales and her husband live mainly on their Social Security payments. Their car broke down right before everything shut down.

The food deliveries help them stretch their money and avoid shopping trips. This day’s delivery was lunch and dinner for the next two days: barbecued pork sandwiches, beef stew, pasta and meatballs and chicken cordon bleu.

Recently, the agency added fresh fruits and vegetables. A few clients cried, so happy to see the things they once got for themselves.

Morales apologizes that she was still wearing her pajamas. There’s just not much to break up these days.

Then she looks to Sally and Zak. They’re great, she says. “I love them.”

See you tomorrow, Sally says.

Sally and Zak get back into the van with eight blue coolers and drive on to Christopher Community apartments a few blocks away.

Maria Johnson
Maria Johnson of Syracuse benefits from the PEACE of Syracuse, who delivers meals daily to seniors who can’t shop for themselves, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Mary suffers multiple health issues that make exposure to COVID-19 almost assuredly fatal. N. Scott Trimble | strimble@syracuse.comN. Scott Trimble | strimble@syra

Maria Johnson comes down to let them in. She wears an Otto the Orange mask and pushes a walker.

The community room where she usually had lunch with her friends has a closed sign on it. It’s dark inside. Johnson is isolated even though her friends are all around her.

“It’s been rough,” she says. You don’t see anybody in the halls. Sometimes Johnson and a friend do laps, 6 feet apart, around the parking lot.

Like many of the clients, she has multiple health problems, including lupus. She’s lucky, she says. She has five kids and talks to them all on the phone. “I’m blessed,” she says. “There’s a lot that are lonely.”

See you tomorrow, Zak says.

And they wheel the dolly with the coolers on it into the elevator.

There, deliveries are spaced out on different floors. At each, they ring the bell and wait. If no one comes, they call or check with a neighbor.

I always wait, Sally says. Just in case the client has become ill and no one knows. That happened once before.

After two rings, a woman comes to the door in her wheelchair. She smiles and takes the bag, explaining that she’s figuring out how to use Zoom at the moment.

OK. See you tomorrow, Sally says.


Christine Quinn gets her meals delivered twice a week to her James Street apartment in Syracuse from the Salvation Army. She used to go to the agency’s senior day program. She would listen to R&B music and do crafts with friends she’d met there. Now, she misses them like family.

“Oh, my God, I wish I could just go there and open it up myself,” she says.

But when she opens her door and sees Patrick Banks with her food delivery, she’s reminded she’ll go back some day soon. “We’ve gotten so attached to them,” Quinn says.

Banks is one of the people who runs the day program. He started working with seniors because he was raised by his grandparents. He imagines them behind each door.

And for Quinn, when Banks shows up, it’s like a visit from family.

Banks knows the seniors are lonely and bored, and sometimes adds activities to the meal bags to break up the days. He brought Quinn some stained glass kits recently. And there are adult coloring pages going out soon. But Banks realizes he, too, is part of the delivery.

“That feels good,” he says.


Sally is wrapping up the delivery at Mary and Gary’s house. The couple is wearing masks they’ve jury-rigged out of black socks.

I’ll bring you some masks, Sally says.

See you tomorrow, she and Zak both say.

Mary and Gary both wave until the van drives off. Then they go inside. But Gary realizes he’s forgotten something and he pops back to the door.

The brown-bagged meals Sally and Zak stopped by to deliver are still sitting on the porch.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) – COVID-19 Law Update

Federal Law AlertCOVID-19 Law Update

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Since the enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on March 18, new information and guidance has been released every few days, though still much slower than employers would like. We have summarized what we believe to be the most relevant new information below. We will continue to update Comply multiple times per day to keep you informed, and we encourage you to visit the site regularly for updates.

Required FFCRA Poster
The Department of Labor (DOL) has released a mandatory employee rights poster for the FFCRA. It should be posted or distributed to employees electronically (via email or online portal) by April 1. More information on the requirements can be found here.

Enforcement of FFCRA
The DOL will not bring enforcement actions against employers for violations of the FFCRA prior to April 17, 2020, provided that the employer has made reasonable, good faith efforts to comply with the Act. You can read more about the brief non-enforcement period here.

New Guidance from the DOL on Administering FFCRA Leaves
We strongly suggest that employers read through the entire Question and Answers document prior to Wednesday, so they have an understanding of how the leaves work. The following are some highlights from the updated guidance:

  • These leaves are not available to employees with reduced hours, furloughed employees, or employees’ whose workplaces are closed. See questions 23-28.
  • These leaves are not available to employees whose workplaces are closed due to a federal, state, or local shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, or due to business slowdowns. See questions 23 and 27.
  • These leaves (and payroll tax credit) are not retroactive. Employees are not entitled to pay under these leaves if they were absent or out of work (for any reasons) prior to April 1. See question 13.
  • Both emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA) can be taken on an intermittent basis in certain situations. See Questions 20-22 for explanations about when intermittent leave is allowed.
  • Employees may not be required to use other forms of paid leave prior to or concurrently with EPSL or EFMLA. See questions 32 and 33.
  • Employers should keep documentation to show that employees who received leave were actually in need of leave. The documentation requirements will be outlined in soon-to-be-released IRS guidance. See Questions 15 and 16.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
On Friday, March 27, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The new law is a $2 trillion economic stimulus package designed to repair the economic damage caused by COVID-19 and provide additional protection to individuals and businesses who may lose income due to the pandemic. While most of the act pertains to direct payments and loans, there are some sections that affect employers.

Providing Alternatives to Closure and Layoffs
The CARES Act gives employers the following options and benefits, which may allow them stay open and keep more people employed:

  • Small businesses may be eligible for emergency grants of up to $10,000 to cover immediate operating costs.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) may provide loans of up to $10 million per business; any portion of that spent to pay employees, keep workers on payroll, or pay for rent, mortgages, or existing debt could be forgiven, provided workers remain employed through the end of June.
  • Small businesses with existing SBA loans may have up to six months of payments waived.
  • Businesses who have experienced a decline in gross receipts of 50% as compared to the same quarter of 2019 or who have been fully or partially shutdown by order may be eligible to receive a refundable tax credit for 50% of qualified employee wages up to $10,000 per employee. This is unrelated to the dollar-for-dollar payroll tax credit that can be taken for FFCRA leaves.
  • Businesses may defer payment of employer payroll taxes imposed between the enactment of this law and December 31, 2020 with half of the deferred taxes due by December 31, 2021 and the rest due by December 31, 2022. This is unrelated to the dollar-for-dollar payroll tax credit that can be taken for FFCRA leaves.

We are unable to advise on these topics as they are outside the scope of our expertise. We encourage you to follow the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief page and the SBA Coronavirus Loan Resources page, as well as consult with your tax professional or financial advisor. Detailed guidance on how to access these financial resources should be coming soon from those sources.

Impact on Unemployment Insurance
The act expands unemployment benefits by 13 weeks and adds $600 to the weekly amount an individual would usually receive. While these unemployment benefits are generous, employers should still consider their options and incentives under the CARES Act mentioned above before making decisions about reduced hours, furloughs, or layoffs.

Employees who experience reduced hours, furloughs, or layoffs should be encouraged to file for unemployment insurance as soon as possible. We recommend that both employers and employees visit their state’s unemployment insurance department website and track local and state news, as departments across the country are updating their rules to facilitate displaced workers during this time.

Copyright 2020 ThinkHR Corporation.

Resources During COVID-19

Updated: 3/31/2020 at 8:30pm

In addition to regular updates, we will continue to provide links for resources, including:

PEACE, Inc. Program information during COVID-19 page

PEACE, Inc.’s response to COVID-19

Updated: 4/30/2020 at 8:12pm

This page will provide regular updates about PEACE, Inc.’s response to COVID-19.

The agency continues to monitor events about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). To ensure the safety of our clients, staff, and the community at large, PEACE, Inc. is following the recommendations of city, county, state, and federal officials. Beginning March 17, 2020, the following programs will be suspended until further notice:

  • All Head Start Services and Sites.
  • Foster Grandparents.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters.
  • EISEP and the Neighborhood Advisor Program.
  • Eastwood Community Center.
  • Free Tax Services.
  • Energy & Housing Services.
  • All non-residential Onondaga County Senior Dining Sites will close as of 2pm on March 17, 2020.
  • Family Resource Center Hours will be limited to scheduled Food Pantry times. Note: While hours will be limited, referrals remain available, and all 6 Family Resource Centers can be reached by either phone or email. If your call is unanswered, leave a message and our staff will respond as soon as possible.
    • County West Family Resource Center.
      • 93 Syracuse Street #700. Baldwinsville, NY 13027,
      • Phone: 315.638.1051.
      • Email:
      • Pantry hours: Wednesday, 10am to 1pm.
    • Viola G. Chisholm Eastside Family Resource Center.
      • 202 South Beech Street, Syracuse, NY 13210.
      • Phone: 315.470.3325.
      • Email:
      • Pantry hours: Monday, and Friday 9am to 12pm.
    • Emma L. Johnston Southside Family Resource Center.
      • 136 Dr. Martin Luther King West. Syracuse, NY 13205.
      • Phone: 315.470.3342.
      • Email:
      • Pantry hours: Thursdays 11:30am – 2pm.
    • Westside Family Resource Center.
      • 200 Wyoming Street Syracuse, NY 13204.
      • Phone: 315.470.3352.
      • Email:
      • Pantry hours: Thursday 10am to 1pm.
    • County East Family Resource Center.
    • County South Family Resource Center.

The following events will be postponed until a later time:

Please visit our page of resources during COVID-19

Video Stories

For PEACE, Inc. staff

Champions of Diversity 2019

PEACE, Inc.’s Champions of Diversity event on September 25, 2019 honoring John DeFrancisco and Garland Brothers Funeral Home, Syracuse.

See photos from the event.

PEACE, Inc. is most grateful for the generous support of its Champions of Diversity sponsors, including:

Presenting Sponsor
Haylor Freyer & Coon, Inc.

Red Carpet Sponsor
Washington Street Partners

Achievement Sponsor
Green Lake Associates
Rick & Judy Shafer

Empowerment Sponsor
The Bonadio Group
National Grid

Auction Sponsor
Wegmans Food Markets. Inc.

Beverage Sponsor
Hancock Estabrook, LLP