WESTBROOK – Maxine Mooers, who has been unable to cook for herself since being hurt in a recent fall, was taken by surprise when she answered her door late Wednesday morning to see a man dressed as Santa Claus bringing her a delivery of warm meals for Christmas.

Mooers and her husband, Eddie, who live in a Spruce Street apartment in Portland’s West End, were two of 111 homebound seniors in Greater Portland who received meals on Christmas that were prepared and delivered by staff and volunteers of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging with help from members of the Portland Rotary Club.

“That was wonderful. Santa Claus, what a surprise,” said Maxine Mooers, 66, whose husband, 67, has a bad leg. “It means a lot. I’ve been lain up recently. I haven’t been able to cook or do housework.”

The man dressed as Santa Claus was Philip Rhinelander, who was going door-to-door in Portland as a volunteer delivering meals with Priscilla Platt and his two adult daughters, Julia and Sarah.

Platt said that she and Rhinelander have volunteered to deliver meals for many years and that his daughters have joined them several times.

As 60-year-old William Dagnese opened the door to his Summer Street apartment Wednesday, where he has lived alone for 20 years, Philip and Julia Rhinelander sang out a full rendition of “Jingle Bells” to him as they delivered his Christmas meal along with a hand-drawn Christmas card made by a local elementary school student.

“It makes my day,” said Dagnese, who took pictures of them with a camera hung around his neck.

Dagnese hoped to see his grandchildren later in the day Wednesday, but on most days, the volunteer who knocks on his door four times per week for Meals on Wheels is his only visitor.

Kate Putnam, director of development and marketing for the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, said the agency delivers far more meals on a typical day that it does on Christmas.

“Generally speaking, we deliver 800 meals per day in southern Maine,” Putnam said. “We have about 400 volunteers delivering meals each day.”

The Meals on Wheels program typically delivers meals every weekday except Wednesday. It delivers to anyone who signs up for help – no income eligibility required – though it recommends donations to keep the program going.

Southern Maine Agency on Aging prepared the meals and coordinated this Wednesday’s special deliveries for Greater Portland at the Westbrook Community Center kitchens. Putnam said her agency also coordinated in other locations in southern Maine to have about 90 more meals delivered outside the Portland area.

The volunteers are people like Jackie Harkins of Portland, who arrived early at the Westbrook Community Center to help package the meals prepared by Tom O’Connor, chief financial officer for Southern Maine Agency on Aging.

“I volunteer because I think what they do to supply meals to these shut-ins is a wonderful thing,” Harkins said. “Not just delivering the meals but the human contact on a day like today is important.”

Greg Shinberg of Freeport was volunteering with his girlfriend, Leah Cantor, for a second time.

“It’s a nice thing to do,” said Shinberg, a commercial developer with several projects in the works in Portland. “We’re only volunteering this one day. They have people who volunteer all year. It gives them Christmas off.”

Their efforts brightened the day of people like 80-year-old Oscar Yankowsky, who relies on family members to help take care of him at his Congress Street home.

“It means so much to me,” Yankowsky said, holding a hot meal that included sliced turkey ham with raisin sauce, mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli casserole.

He also got cold meals for later.

Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @scottddolan

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