90-year-old Maplewoodian devotes 30 years to Meals on Wheels

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — A lot has changed since 1987 — there have been six different presidents, cassette tapes were the most common way to listen to music and the internet as we know it did not yet exist. But one constant during the last 30 years is Maplewood resident Douglas Reed’s involvement with Meals on Wheels. The 90-year-old has been delivering meals to residents in Millburn since he retired from Dun & Bradstreet as a buying manager for the business analytics company, and he has no intention of stopping anytime soon.

“I was looking for something to do that I could do,” Reed said in a Nov. 30 interview. “It was a bit of an early retirement for me, and I could drive.”

Once a week for the last 30 years, Reed has brought a hot meal, a cold meal and milk to residents in Millburn and Short Hills. Right now he has three people to whom he delivers, but he’s had as many as 21 at a time. The Meals on Wheels program is run in conjunction with SAGE Eldercare as well as the Red Cross, where Reed also volunteered.

“I’ve made good friends with them,” Reed said of the people to whom he delivers meals. “It’s only one day in my week, but sometimes we’re the only people to show up for them — they’re alone. I enjoy helping people, I’m happy to make life a little easier for them.”

Born in East Orange, Reed lived in West Orange before moving with his family to Millburn in 1939. He lived in East Orange again after getting married, before he and his wife moved back to Millburn in 1963 and raised their two sons and daughter. Reed stayed put until two and a half years ago, when he moved to Maplewood.

Thirty years is a long time to continuously do anything, but Reed has enjoyed his time working with Meals on Wheels.

“It’s quite a crew, we stand around and talk until the food comes in and we load it up,” he said. “I usually leave around 9, and it takes until 11:30.”

Reed has become friends with many of the people to whom he delivers meals, sometimes adjusting his route so that he can stay and spend time with them.

“One fellow was a collector of coins, so I would fix my route so I could stay and talk to him,” Reed said. “We would talk for two hours sometimes. You get to know them, know their likes and dislikes.”

When he’s not out on a delivery, Reed is a collector himself — he’s been stockpiling glass since his mother gave him a bowl as a wedding present.

“My mother gave me this dish in a pattern called ‘bellflower,’ and she said that when you go into a store you don’t have to say you’re just looking,” he said. “You can ask if they have a piece in that pattern.”

He has since moved on from collecting the bellflower pattern to glass salt dishes, and has several made between 1825 and 1850 that he found at auctions and antique stores.

When he lived in Millburn, Reed was involved with the Boy Scouts, taking a troop on trips to places as far away as Idaho and Japan. A music fan, he sings in a Millburn church choir and is a former president of the Maplewood Garden Club, running the group’s annual plant sale.

Reed plans to continue volunteering with Meals on Wheels as long as he is able.

“As long as I can, I’ll do it,” he said. “Until someone says ‘Doug, you better stop driving.’”

Photos Courtesy of SAGE