I spent Monday morning (March 31st) working with Ralph Damiano. Ralph is approaching his 80th birthday and delivers meals to senior citizens who are homebound. Ralph earns $10.50 an hour from the town – he is supposed to work three and a half hours a day (9 AM to 12:30) but typically puts in five or six hours and he does not charge the town for his extra time.
Ralph is one of a handful of dedicated part time employees responsible for delivering between 435 to 500 meals a day to seniors. He has worked for the town for 11 years, after retiring as an operating engineer. When I agreed to work with him I thought my morning would be relaxing. I was wrong. Ralph did not waste a second, we delivered 36 meals to needy seniors and stopped off at a nutrition site along the way. We climbed over 300 steps during the morning hours – it was hard to keep up with Ralph who runs up the steps like a 20 year old, not an 80 year old.
Before I arrived (Ralph was at the Parks & Recreation office at 7:30 PM) the kitchen staff were preparing delicious meals for the seniors: todays menu included stuffed pepper, mashed potato, broccoli, milk and bread. Canned fruit is provided. Diabetics get a fresh apple. Seniors are asked to pay $3 a meal (which includes delivery).
To say I was impressed with the effort is a big UNDERSTATEMENT. Ralph is an awesome public servant. He’s friendly with the seniors, treats his customers like family. He is a true hero. He looks out for his seniors. He once found an elderly woman laying on the floor. No one had helped her. He called 911 and got her the help she needed. We visited her on Monday – she is getting back to herself. When it snows he has cleared the steps of snow for some of the seniors. When we stopped by at a woman’s apartment – he took out her garbage and threw it out. None of these duties are job requirements.
Ralph knows the habits of people on his route. Some of the seniors have alzheimers. Others are in the beginning stages of alzheimers. We dropped off food at the homes/apartments of a few people who were legally blind. We kidded them: they’re like the new Governor. One of the seniors that Ralph drops off food at is 102 years young. We walked up very steep, narrow steps at a 100 year old building in Hastings (this is a town wide program). Other apartment buildings were also in pretty bad shape.
Ralph does not get sick time. He does not get vacation time. He gets no health insurance from the town and no benefits. In fact, a number of years ago –while working- his vehicle hit his leg. Ralph was not injured. Bruised a little. But, not injured. According to Deputy Commissioner of Parks Joe Lucasey Ralph continued delivering meals to seniors and then put in a claim ----------for a new pair of pants.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor
NEXT MONTH: I’m going to be working in a different department. I’ll provide you with a report.