Labor Of Love

Amherst, N.Y. Ice Tech Delivering More Than Just Meals To Elderly Neighbors

Jim Miles, center, along with fellow Northtown Center ice crew members Scott Sykes and Dave Barth continue to serve the Amherst, N.Y., community by delivering meals on wheels.Jim Miles, center, along with fellow Northtown Center ice crew members Scott Sykes and Dave Barth continue to serve the Amherst, N.Y., community by delivering meals on wheels.


Jim Miles spends his summers outdoors taking care of the many athletic fields scattered around the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, N.Y., and his winters inside the Northtown Center serving as a crew chief at the four-sheet facility.


Like many of his colleagues working in the youth and recreation departments, he’s added another task to his daily duties. This one, it turns out, is a labor of love that is helping some of the most vulnerable in these uncertain times.


Working alongside other colleagues, Miles takes a break of sorts from his normal spring duties midway through the work day to deliver meals to some of the town’s elderly citizens.


“The meals on wheels is something different, and it’s something that I didn’t realize what it entailed,” said Miles, who has worked for the town for eight years. “Just seeing these people smile, they’re so happy to see you and they’re so grateful. I feel like I shouldn’t be getting paid.”


Each day Miles and his colleagues stop what they’re doing around lunchtime and head over to the area senior center where the food is prepared and load up before making their rounds in the community.


At each stop the two-man teams deliver three meals, one frozen, one cold and one hot, to more than 20 houses in the area. Each run takes about two hours and then the crews head back to the senior center to sanitize their equipment before returning to their normal duties. 


“I’m very lucky to have the staff that I do,” said Eric Guzdek, general manager of the Northtown Center. “I have to give a lot of credit to the hard-working people who work for me because they’re doing a heck of a job.”


For so many, social distancing has become a way of life since the coronavirus pandemic hit New York State and the rest of the country. When it comes to a significant portion of the elderly population, spending their golden years in isolation is an unfortunate way of life. 


The daily delivery of a hot meal is about more than just nourishment. It’s a lifeline of companionship and camaraderie that fills the soul. For many shut-ins, this could be their only human contact of the day.


“We try to peek our head in the window or the door to see how they’re doing and what their standard of living is like,” Miles said. “We just want to check up on them. And that’s a big part of the job.”


Still, the priority is to ensure the health and safety of some of society’s most vulnerable citizens, so drivers have no choice but to cut their visits short.


“I’m sure before this the volunteers probably did a little more chit chatting with them, but for our safety and for theirs, you kind of have to keep it brief, unfortunately. But that’s the way the times that we live in now are.”


For Miles and his coworkers helping out the community in these tough times is more than just a job, it’s a calling. And with so many parks and athletic fields to take care of it is easy to maintain a safe social distance as they prepare for the day when they can welcome everyone back out into the public.


“I think for all of us working in the recreation department, whether it’s working at the rink or at any of the ballfields, we love what we do,” said Miles, who received his ice technician certification through the U.S. Ice Rinks Association.


“I don’t look at what I do as a job. I like sports, I enjoy watching the kids, even though I know I’m working, but you do it for the kids, that’s what we’re here for.”


And now he can add helping some of the area’s senior citizens to the list of those in the community he is able to help on a daily basis.


“I don’t see it that way,” Miles said. “I’m getting paid for something I enjoy doing. I think when this is done and over, I might volunteer. We’ve all had grandparents.  I really enjoy it and I know a lot of guys feel the same way.”

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