Jim Klesitz & James Caplinger

Boxing up meals for Sunday morning delivery. Submitted photos

 

BETHEL — “Having the wonderful Sunday lunches has been an absolute plus in so many ways,” claims Marilyn Dupuis, a senior at Sudbury Village. “They put a happy smile on my face, and a delicious meal makes me feel special.” Like other seniors no longer driving, Marilyn depended on the local Age Friendly Neighbor to Neighbor transportation service for grocery store needs before the coronavirus hit. Now, it is more difficult to get to the store.

COVID 19 had many people wondering how they could help their community. Among them were, Jim Klesitz and his husband, James Caplinger, who had moved to Bryant pond from Florida three years ago when James accepted a position at Stephens Memorial Hospital. Jim was anxious to do volunteer work and, in discussing this with friends, said, “I love to cook.” In 2008, he managed a senior community in Florida which had a meal program. It was there that he found his passion for cooking for seniors and providing them a well- balanced meal. He said, “I have had many family and friends with health issues that required better nutrition, and I’ve educated myself on how to make recipes healthier when possible.”

Jim decided to explore the idea of cooking for seniors with some community members, telling them that, if there was a need, he was willing to help. He was put in touch with Bonnie Pooley who quickly reached out to seniors in the community and found there was a need. Since March, others have joined in to help. Because meals were already being provided on weekdays, Jim decided to offer a full meal on Sundays. The project soon grew to its current capacity of 30 meals, 15 to interested Sudbury Village seniors and 15 to Bethel House seniors.

While Jim does the cooking from among the many recipes he has prepared over the years, James helps with prep work and other details. They have come up with a routine where meals are prepared mostly on Saturdays so that Sunday mornings can be devoted to boxing up meals to be ready for delivery by Bonnie Pooley.

It was the seniors themselves who coined the term “Sunday Chefs,” as they looked forward to special meals on Sundays. The variety of meals was also very pleasing. “I fell in love with the corn casserole,” said Marilyn, adding that she would really like the recipe. “And the meatloaf equals any I have ever had from someone’s kitchen or in a restaurant.”

“Our Sunday Chefs are a couple of amazing guys with big hearts and lots of caring,” said Wally Ritz. “I think I can speak for most of the residents at the Bethel House when I say that the meals are always delicious, nutritious and plentiful. For most of us, it’s enough for two meals.” She added. “They also introduced us to come new tasty dishes.” Debbie Tomaso especially likes the soups and Rhonda Mitchell likes everything.

“I can’t thank them enough for their care and kindness,” said Brenda Dewhurst of Sudbury Village. “Seeing their dedication and great spirit during these difficult times has really made a big difference.”

Jim alerted the community about his meals for seniors by posting pictures of the meals served on the Team Bethel Facebook page. Soon generous community members were asking how they could make financial donations. “We even had a community member donate a chest freezer. This additional storage enables us to purchase more food from one of the bulk food stores and assures us that we will not run out of food for the meals.”

The Sunday Chefs took time out during August and September to plan for the coming winter months. Meals resume in October, and they are again calling on the community for financial help. Jim said that each meal costs less than $3.50, and, according to seniors, the generous servings are enough for two meals.

“All those involved with the Sunday meals should be so proud. This isn’t just doing – this is caring,” said Marilyn. Rosabelle Tifft also of Sudbury Village, added, “The Sunday Chefs are a good example of the caring Bethel area community. Their generosity demonstrates how ‘we’re all in this together.”


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