Jesus Islava

Jesus Islava, evening manager at Arizona Family Restaurant, carries take-out meals to be loaded into cars and delivered by Posada Life Community Services' staff to seniors staying at home during the pandemic. Community donors made the meals possible.

Posada Life Community Center is 34-weeks deep on delivering restaurant meals to Green Valley residents, but thinning funds might bring the effort to an end Friday.

The Friday meals began with an anonymous donation of about $7,000 from a group of friends pooling their stimulus money. The group wanted to help local restaurants weather the pandemic while giving seniors something to look forward to every week.

The group partnered with Posada Life to identify 50 seniors and get the meals to them. Posada Life received another $11,000 in donations following a July article in the Green Valley News highlighting the good deed.

And that extra $11,000 gave them the boost they needed to keep the meals going. Posada Life director Ellen March said they've picked up food from 17 restaurants since they began.

"The anonymous donors really ran the show for the first long period of time," March said. "They ordered all the food and he paid for it himself and the whole thing. But after the article came out, we had $11,000 in unsolicited donations. It just came from everywhere."

March said those had covered the meal costs since then. And the anonymous group?

"He had said back in the beginning – we started in the middle of May, or the end of May – he said if the pandemic was an issue, he was going to stick with it until Thanksgiving," she said.

Posada Life's Regina Ford was among the people delivering the meals in the beginning.

"We were hoping COVID would dissipate but obviously it didn't," she said. "And so we'd like to be able to continue just as long as we can because it's so wonderful to do this for people who are isolated and trying to stay inside. Plus, help the restaurants at the same time."

Now Ford is helping Posada Life promote the Friday meals and writing letters to past donors. She's like to see the program continue through spring.

And that hot meal on Friday isn't lost on the recipients or the restaurants.

Manager Rosa Lopez said Manuel's restaurant made 50 meals for the residents a few weeks ago and the extra business was appreciated.

Coronavirus safety guidelines reduced occupancy in restaurants countywide, which places more importance on take-out meals.

"Any take-out helps quite a bit because we're very limited on seating," Lopez said.

Mary Januchowski, 89, said she used to go out to restaurants before the pandemic, and these meals are a friendly reminder of those days until the pandemic ends.

"It's better because I don't have to go out to the restaurant," she said. "I don't have to go out to pick it up. It's right there."

Julia Mahar, 87, said she looks forward to her Friday meals, and it's not just about the good food.

"We're kind of isolated here, and it's nice to see her and be able to talk to her even though we're apart a little bit," she said. "It's just wonderful to have somebody come to the house. I can't have my family here or anything. She just comes to the car, and we stand apart outside, and she gives us our food and talks to us a little bit."

But a nice restaurant meal does have its perks.

Mahar said she and her husband, Charles, 97,  get meals, and it makes for a great date night.

"Yeah," she said. "You know, old people like to do things like that, too."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732