Off an unnamed dirt road near the railroad tracks in this Atchafalaya River port city, 82-year-old Linzy Howard waited for his good friend and helper Charlette Bartholomew to bring him his weekday meal. This time, Bartholomew brought him more than food.
“God bless you, and good to see you,” Howard said, as Bartholomew handed him a bag of Christmas goodies along with the food.
For 5½ years, Bartholomew has delivered meals for the St. Mary Parish Council on Aging. Her 24-stop route through Morgan City brings her to the homes of Howard and others who are elderly and cannot or do not drive. Some of them are homebound.
In her years at the Council on Aging, Bartholomew — an unapologetic hugger — has become more than a food delivery driver. She often is the only human contact available for her clients, who have become her friends.
“They look forward to us coming their way,” Bartholomew said. “They’re awaiting our arrival.”
Bartholomew is one of three delivery women who work out of the Council on Aging’s center on Third Street in Morgan City. On Wednesday, they wrapped the prepared meals, then fanned out across the city and across the river to Berwick.
Lisa Daigle, who is manager at the Morgan City center, said 75 people in Morgan City and Berwick depend on the agency for transportation, food and other necessities. The youngest among the clients is 63, the oldest 96. And though most are on tiny, fixed incomes, anyone can seek help and companionship at the center, regardless of how much money they have.
Gloria Hernandez was rocking on her front porch when Bartholomew pulled up outside her wooden home on Wednesday, the eve of Christmas Eve.
Hernandez, 96, put up a faux protest when she learned media wanted to photograph her, then she stuck out her tongue to tease the photographer.
“You been feeling OK?” Bartholomew asked.
“I’m old,” Hernandez said.
Promising to visit Hernandez soon, Bartholomew left with, “You have a merry Christmas. I love you.”
Back at the Council on Aging’s center, 20 people who visit there almost every day waited for the highlight of the morning — playing competitive, sometimes really competitive, rounds of bingo.
When hospice worker Rachel Duay announced the game and started calling out numbers, a collective “shush” went out and all was quiet save for Duay’s voice. Nearby, a table of four abandoned a half-played game of dominoes for bingo.
The matches are played seriously, and, at times, a lost temper will lead to accusations of cheating. And then it’s on, Daigle said, giggling. “How can you cheat at bingo?”
Daigle’s center in Morgan City is one of three Council on Aging locations in St. Mary Parish, with the others to the west in Patterson and Franklin. The council relies on grants from other nonprofits, as well as from local, state and federal sources to fund services, which include providing meals five days a week and ferrying the elderly to grocery stores, drugstores and medical appointments.
On Wednesday, Bartholomew was making her last meal deliveries of the week to the area’s homebound before Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Tahn Fields’ home was the fifth stop. Fields, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1978, was waiting outside.
“I’ll see you Monday. I love you,” Bartholomew told Fields, then sped off to deliver the remaining 19 meals.