DETROIT — Though everyone in the country and the world has been massively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, one of the most affected populations has been the elderly and those who are otherwise incapacitated. Individuals who live alone and have relied on family members or loved ones to assist with their shopping or preparing meals were suddenly told that they should not take visitors, in order to protect themselves from the threat of infection, which at their age could be lethal.
As soon as the pandemic struck in March, Metro Detroit’s Fr. Aren Jebejian and the leadership and parishioners of St. John’s Armenian Church knew they had to do something. Thus, a special program titled “Seerov Jash” — Meals With Love — was born.
“On average, we send out from 250-300 meals a week,” says Lisa Mardigian, Youth Coordinator at St. John’s and an integral part of the Seerov Jash team. “We’ve been doing it since March and recently we passed the 10,000 mark.” The meals have been served twice weekly since the inception of the program. St. John’s onsite caterer, Paul Yousoufian, prepares the meals with his team. St. John’s building administrator Paul Andonian creates an e-blast to inform community members of the ongoing program. They are instructed to call or email Mardigian, who takes reservations for meals and lines up the team of drivers.
The volunteers are composed of parishioners of all ages, including young adults, a fact of which Mardigian is very proud. “I’ve got young guys driving these meals out to the seniors of our community. And they can visit with them a little bit, even though it’s socially distanced of course. They love it — it’s an emotional support for them,” Mardigian says.
Annette Mamassian, lifelong parishioner and choir member, has a special job — passing out meals to the lineup of cars that have come to pick up their meal in person — observing all safety protocols of course. “I really want to give Annette credit, because she’s someone who has been doing this religiously,” says Mardigian (no pun intended).
Most of the recipients are the elderly, and many live in various senior living centers in the area. “Some of these people are 97-98 years old, we’re helping out people that are too old to leave their homes by themselves, and they rely on the camaraderie of our delivery volunteers and look forward to the visits,” Mardigian says.