The Sunday Chefs resumed meals in October, and are again calling on the community for financial help. Contributed

BETHEL — “Having the wonderful Sunday meals has been an absolute plus in so many ways,” said Marilyn Dupuis, a senior at Sudbury Village. Like other seniors no longer driving, Dupuis depended on the local Age Friendly Neighbor to Neighbor transportation service for grocery 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 Caplinger accepted a position at Stephens Memorial Hospital. Klesitz 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 to cook for seniors. 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.”

Klesitz 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 reached out to seniors in the community and found there was a need. Since March, others have joined in to help. Klesitz decided to offer a full meal on Sundays. The project soon grew to its current capacity of 30 meals distributed to seniors.

While Klesitz does the cooking from among the many recipes he has prepared over the years, Caplinger 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 them for delivery by Bonnie Pooley.

The seniors coined the term “Sunday Chefs,” as they looked forward to special meals on Sundays.

Klesitz alerted the community about his meals by posting pictures of the meals served on the Team Bethel Facebook page. Soon 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. Meals resumed in October, and they are again calling on the community for financial help. Klesitz said that each meal costs less than $3.50, and, according to seniors, the servings are enough for two meals.

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