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Meals on WheelsMeals on Wheels| Philly Pops| Victor Cafe

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Meals on Wheels| Philly Pops| Victor Cafe

Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels is a volunteer-driven program that serves up food, companionship, and a sense of security for almost 6,000 seniors in Philadelphia alone. The federal and state-funded program is managed by the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, or PCA. Suzanne sits with Holly Lange, President & CEO of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, to discuss the impact the meal-delivery program is making on Philadelphia’s elder community.

The PCA makes it simple for a senior citizen to find out whether they’re eligible for Meals on Wheels and other assistance programs. Any senior, their family member or hospital can call the PCA with their concerns, and a social worker will be sent to the home or hospital to evaluate the senior’s needs. The social worker also includes family members in their evaluation to determine which services the senior is eligible for in their home. One of the most important services the PCA provides is the Meals on Wheels program. The PCA delivers 4,300 meals a day to seniors in need. To be eligible for Meals on Wheels, a senior must not have a caregiver or be able to cook for themselves. About 90% of the eligible seniors are also low-income participants. 

The Meals on Wheels distribution center is at the PCA building, where approved vendors deliver food products through the loading dock. These products are immediately reviewed for quantity and quality purposes and put into refrigerated storage. The seniors receive their meals from a pre-scheduled, dietician-approved menu. Products are pulled from storage each day in accordance to the menu, packed separately, labeled and transferred to be delivered. Each PCA driver picks up the meals they’re assigned to and delivers them to the senior’s home. Most of the recipients receive frozen meals once a week, but about 8% of the seniors receive hot meals daily. Each meal is approved by a dietician to have 1/3rd of the adult daily nutritional requirements of vitamins, minerals and proteins. Many seniors feel comfort in knowing someone is delivering their meals daily or weekly. The PCA drivers are very compassionate and will alert the PCA if something seems abnormal during one of their deliveries. For some seniors, the only interaction they get during the day is with their drivers, so they really look forward to their daily or weekly deliveries. One Meals on Wheels consumer, Daphne Clinton, says that she finds security in knowing her driver, Edwin Feliciano, will always show up with her meal. Daphne looks forward to seeing Edwin because she says, “He’s a really nice guy and I don’t have to worry about going hungry.” Even going to the corner store for a gallon of milk is difficult for most seniors, and the Philadelphia Meals on Wheels program ensures that our seniors stay healthy and safe. 

Philly Pops

We head out on the town with the Philly POPS, a 65-piece orchestra that plays American pop favorites from Broadway to “Top 40” hits. Suzanne meets Michael Krajewski, Music Director of the Philly POPS, and learns how both his career and the Philly POPS have evolved since his induction in 2013.

The difference between a pops orchestra and a classical symphony orchestra is simply in the type of music each performs. A classical orchestra plays classical music specifically written for a symphony orchestra, while a pops orchestra plays music of various genres of popular music like jazz, movie soundtracks, “Top 40” hits and beyond. Michael Krajewski became the Musical Director of the Philly POPS in 2013, and he is responsible for the orchestra’s amazing comeback from trying times. Frank Giordano, Philly POPS President & CEO, reveals that the Philly POPS were in bankruptcy when Michael was hired. After 34 years under the iconic Peter Nero’s direction, the POPS programming was becoming stale, and Frank knew they needed fresh programming. Famous composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch mentioned to Frank that Michael was the best programmer in the business, and they set up a meeting. Frank saw exciting potential in Michael and trusted that he could revamp the program. Although the Philly POPS, and Frank especially, were nervous to replace the talented Peter Nero, their decision panned out extraordinarily well. Frank says it was “love at first note;” the orchestra and the audience immediately loved Michael and his humor. 

Michael’s responsibilities as the Philly POPS Music Director include conducting the concerts, planning programs, picking songs, mapping out entire seasons, booking guest artists and beyond. Michael says that some songs are much easier to pull off than others, but with the help of a talented arranger and orchestrator, the pieces turn out to be quite amazing. He believes that the Philly POPS are the best pops in the country because their orchestra is completely dedicated to being a pops orchestra, while other orchestras play both classical and pops. Preparing for the Philly POPS famous Christmas show begins with hard work and planning in the summer and throughout the fall. Michael says being the Music Director for the Philly POPS is his dream job; he can’t believe he gets paid to do a job he loves so much. His dedication and love for music is evident in every amazing Philly POPS performance.  

Victor Café 

Rick DiStefano, the owner of the Victor Café, says his grandfather, John DiStefano, came to the U.S. in 1908 and started a gramophone shop in 1918. The shop became a meeting place for friends and family to spin records and hang out, especially during the Great Depression. John’s wife was known to make food for the shop’s visitors, and after the repeal of prohibition, John purchased a liquor license. In 1933, the couple turned the record shop into a restaurant where their patrons would eat amazing Italian food and listen to the classics. Since John was notorious for his knowledge of voice and music, celebrities would visit the Victor Café to get advice and network – many of them hoping to be introduced to people he knew at RCA Records. Rick looks back on being a kid in his grandparent’s restaurant with fond memories. He recalls customers constantly singing, occasionally pushing their plate of pasta to the side to stand up and belt out a tune. 

The Victor Café began incorporating opera music into its traditions in 1979 and 1980 when they hired two waiters who were opera students. Eventually, the restaurant evolved into an entire opera-singing wait staff – a tradition that continues still today. Unlike most other restaurants, the Victor Café’s hiring process is based off a performance audition. Singer and server Anais Naharro-Murphy says she thinks working at the Victor Café is special because it’s a family business run by people who care deeply about both their employees and their business. A normal night at the Victor Café is like a night at any other restaurant, apart from voice warmups in the back alley and opera performances, cued by a bell, about every twenty minutes. As the Victor Café’s owner, Rick is also the executive chef. He says he likes to keep the menu based consistently on what his grandmothers would cook – traditional Italian food – with the occasional twist. The Victor Café is a Philadelphia landmark today, with famous scenes in movies like Rocky and, more recently, Creed. If you haven’t visited the Victor Café yet, you ought to make a reservation and prepare yourself for some beautiful opera music and delicious Italian food. 

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