When Meena Pilgrim walks through your door, she quickly becomes part of your family. As a New Community Home Friend, Pilgrim’s role takes her directly into the heart of a resident’s living space, and often it’s a place that desperately needs some care and attention.
As such, Pilgrim walks a fine line supporting individuals who want to live independently but need help with chores such as making breakfast, washing dishes, cleaning or ironing, due to physical limitations caused, for example, by arthritis or a stroke. A Home Friend, she explains, provides such assistance but stops short of bathing residents or assisting with medications. Pilgrim currently works with seven clients—they live at NCC residences and other senior complexes in Newark—and sees each person twice a week.
“I feel happy when I can give and do something extra for somebody,” said Pilgrim, who has been a Home Friend since June of 1990.
Her regular presence also provides residents with a sense of companionship. Owen Phillips, a resident of New Community Associates, has been Pilgrim’s client for more than five years and described her as being “like family.” She visits him on Wednesdays and Fridays to clean his apartment, make trips to the store and generally ensure that Phillips, 73, is comfortable in his apartment.
“She’ll go out of her way to get it done,” he said. “She’s always on time, she’s always pleasant.”
Born in Guyana, Pilgrim first arrived in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked as a live-in domestic worker and eventually met and married her husband, Anthony, a pastor. His job led them to move to Lexington, Ky., where Anthony served at a church, and then to New Jersey, when he was hired to work at NCC’s Security Department. The couple have three grown children.
A woman of deep faith, Pilgrim leads intercessory prayer at the church in Newark that her husband helps to pastor called Gospel Light. After she retires, Pilgrim said she wants to go on a mission trip to Africa. For now, Pilgrim’s work is her ministry.
“She’s hardworking and dedicated to the job,” said Home Friends Director Tahisha Chambers, who noted that Pilgrim goes “above and beyond her job duties” and is loved by all her residents.
“I am blessed to have Ms. Pilgrim (as) part of my team,” Chambers added.