Meals on Wheels clients, volunteers establish bonds

Published 9:37 am Thursday, March 17, 2022

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Many older adults in Davie County are confined to their homes and find it difficult to cook for themselves.

Davie County Senior Services’ Meals on Wheels can help by delivering a hot, nutritious meal to their home each weekday. This program relies on volunteers to delive meals, companionship, and a friendly smile.

Eligibility guidelines to receive Meals on Wheels are set by the state: client must be 60 or older, basically homebound or have extreme difficulty leaving home due to physical or cognitive impairment (not because of transportation); unable to cook their own meal, and have no one willing or able to cook for them (although the meal may serve as a break for someone providing 24/7 care).

Referrals are made to the Senior Services social worker by home health agencies, doctor’s offices, family members, friends, or the clients.  The social worker will schedule a home visit to meet with the client and do the assessment.

Recently, Senior Services spoke with several clients on the Meals on Wheels routes to hear the impact the program has made. Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

• Jane and her husband started receiving meals in 2010. She was the caregiver for her spouse who required 24/7 care. This program helped her to better care for him by providing the lunch meal. After her husband passed away, she was no longer in need of the meals.

Then, in 2014, Jane experienced a fall, and her health started to decline. She resumed meals and loves that she is able to still have a hot meal each day even though she is unable to cook. She enjoys the chicken pie and lima beans the most.

One of her favorite things is seeing the volunteers and interacting with them each day. “Jim is my favorite, and I was really glad that I got to meet his wife recently. I’ve seen Jim almost every week since I started Meals on Wheels, except for when he goes on vacations.”

• Mary started Meals on Wheels after falling and breaking her hip. Her original plan was to volunteer, but the fall changed that. The meals were a great help during her recovery and continue to help her today as she battles other chronic conditions. When asked what her favorite thing: “Having a variety of meals to eat and chatting with the drivers when they stop by. Even if they (Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers) just take a few minutes out of their day to stay and talk, it’s the biggest blessing.”

Mary shared with staff that the Meals on Wheels program enables her to save money that she needs to buy her medications since she is often unable to pay for both. However, she does try to still give a donation back to the program when she is able. “All of the meals are amazing.” Her favorites are “spaghetti, chicken alfredo, and chicken and gravy.”

• Bill is a longtime Meals on Wheels client. He began getting the meals in 2016 after having double knee replacement, expecting to be on short-term while he recovered. However, health conditions led to open heart surgery and other procedures, and the hot lunch meal each day became a lifesaver.

The program has impacted his life because he does not know how to cook, and he is not sure what he would do if he did not receive the meals. He has a few friends who bring meals to him on occasion, but the daily lunch ensures he will have at least one hot meal. His favorite is the meatloaf. Bill appreciates all the volunteers, although he has really formed friendships with Larry and Rick.

• Sue has been a meals recipient for more than six  years and was asked about her experience with the program. “I don’t have to worry about where a hot meal will come from because I know they will bring one.” Her closest family is in California, and her health conditions make it almost impossible to cook for herself. Sue states Meals on Wheels has made a difference in her life because she “has a lot of leg pain and not having to stand up and make my own food helps me out.” The breakfast food meal is her favorite, and she said volunteers “are always so friendly, nice, and willing to talk for a little while.”

• Joe and Cindy are a husband and wife couple receiving the meals, which started about four years ago after Joe experienced a stroke. Although Cindy is the caregiver, they both state their health has greatly improved since becoming clients with Meals on Wheels, and they especially love the spaghetti.

Cindy said it is helpful to her in providing care for Joe because she does not have to cook or worry about providing food. They look forward to visits and chatting with the drivers because they do not have visitors often. Their faces lit up when asked about the volunteer drivers. Cindy loves that the drivers show interest in her small patio tomato garden, and she has been able to share informational tips for the drivers who are starting their own gardens. Cindy said: “It doesn’t matter how long they (volunteers) have been coming. It feels like you have known them forever.”

• Joan has been getting meals on and off since 2018, as her health conditions fluctuate. The meals are helpful because she is not able to stand up for very long to cook. “I don’t have to worry about having at least one good meal Monday-Friday.” She loves all the meals, but the breakfast meal is her favorite.  “I love all the volunteers. One time a volunteer learned that I collect owls and surprised me with a new owl. They are all so personable and really pay attention to the little things that make a difference in my life.”

• That special volunteer was Deputy Karen Austin from the Davie County Sheriff’s Office who delivers meals each week. The sheriff’s office has been a long-time supporter of the Meals on Wheels program and delivered the majority of the routes when the senior center was closed during the pandemic.

Since re-opening the senior center in July of 2021, the sheriff’s office still delivers at least three days per week with Deputy Austin driving a route at least one day. She is the Mocksville foot patrol officer so delivering meals in Mocksville feels like a natural extension of her job of getting to know the residents.

“I love the elderly,” Austin said. “I love the socialization and the friendships that I’ve made with the seniors. One of them asked and remembered my birthday and surprised me with a birthday card. I also give them my business card so they can call me anytime they need to.”

Members of the community often donate special goodies to be delivered to the clients.

Each quarter the Bermuda Run Garden Club provides fresh flower bouquets for all Meals on Wheels clients.

At Christmas, churches have provided stockings filled with toiletries for the clients.

Groups and individual often provide handmade cards to be delivered to the clients.

To make a referral to Meals on Wheels, or for information about how to volunteer, contact Senior Services at 336-753-6230.

Senior Services will hold a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Older American’s Act Nutrition Program, “50 Years of Nutrition: Celebrate, Innovate, and Educate,” on Tuesday, March 29 at Sthe Main Campus. The celebration will start at 10 a.m. with fun activities, games and more, with lunch following at 11.