Million miles traveled for meals in 30 yearsPublished 9:37pm Thursday, December 22, 2011
The Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels was first established 39 years ago. Since that time, volunteer drivers have travelled almost one million miles to deliver nutritious meals to elderly and shut-in individuals.
This Christmas, in appreciation of their work and with a desire to serve and cheer their clients, an Edwardsburg woman decided to decorate recipients ‘Christmas tables. In the true spirit of Santa’s elves, she chose to remain anonymous when donating the 40 handcrafted, one-of-a-kind Christmas centerpieces. Her work was greatly appreciated by all those who received her handiwork, this week, in addition to their daily meal delivery.
Taking to the road with Meals on Wheels director Thom Christie and new board member Marcia Rifenberg as they traveled, delivering some meals and the holiday centerpieces, gives one a special appreciation for the program and those they serve.
First stop: Four Flags Plaza and Dotty Waterbury.
“Oh my land! Thank you so much. That is so beautiful. What a nice Christmas gift!” Waterbury said, adding, “If it wasn’t for these people I don’t know what I would do. I can’t cook anymore. I get a nice balanced diet but then I have to put up with that!”
She laughs as she motions toward Christie. They have a special relationship and each gives as good as they get.
“Life is too short to be too serious,” Waterbury said.
“She’ll haul off and take a poke at me if I get out of line,” Christie said.
As they move on, Christie, who has been with Meals on Wheels for the past two and a half years, reminisces about another lady, who used to live across the hall and passed away recently. At 93 she amazed him with her deep belly laugh and how much he found they had in common in spite of the age difference.
Next on this Santa’s list is Jane Whitney. Here we are again greeted with surprise and great pleasure over the special Christmas centerpiece. Rifenberg, who joined the board a week ago and is on her first delivery trip, picks up a recipe for scalloped oysters from Whitney.
“I’m going to my son’s for Christmas. I still do the oysters. No one else does it like mine. The grandkids don’t like them so I do up a pint for the three of us. A pint costs $14, did you know that?” Whitney said.
Her remarks are a reminder of just how much has changed over the years for many of those on Meals on Wheels’ routes.
For some getting out and buying groceries for one is just not reasonable. Prices on everything are so much greater now.
So it is for the 149 volunteer drivers of the four local routes. Christie did the math. It costs them about $25,000 in fuel each year to make the deliveries happen, but like those who have gone before them, they are a dedicated lot.
According to the national Meals on Wheels website at www.mowaa.org, “The Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) is the oldest and largest organization in the United States representing those who offer meal services to people in need.
Since 1976, MOWAA has worked to arm local senior nutrition programs with the resources, tools and information they need to provide meals and make a difference in the lives of our neighbors, our veterans and all of our nation’s seniors who are facing the threat of hunger.”
The first “Meals on Wheels” was delivered in canteens to British servicemen during World War II and the first formal Meals On Wheels program in America began in Philadelphia in the 1950s.
By 2 p.m., the Christie/Rifenberg roadshow has reached Buchanan. They stop by Ancel Jansen’s home. Like many of those they serve, Jansen has some mobility problems, but the lively senior still “wants to get up and do the polka.”
This year has been tough on her family with others who have injury and illness and she shares her prayers for them. She like so many on the route would like us to stay and visit, but with miles to go before they sleep, Rifenberg promises to come back to visit another time and Jansen returns to her knitting with her new centerpiece in front of her on the television.
Next stop was Bill Holcomb, who Rifenberg knew when he with the Buchanan Post Office in his younger years. Now they regularly meet when he goes in to pay his insurance premiums at her local insurance office.
“I’ve known this one for a long time. My house was flooded once. and she got it all straightened out for me in no time,” he said.
Although it is the first time Holcomb and Christie have met, they feel like they know one another. They talk on the phone often, like earlier in the morning when Holcomb called to see if he could add today to his meal order.
This is what Meals on Wheels is all about: neighbors serving neighbors.
Volunteers are always needed and appreciated here. Last week they had their yearly appreciation Christmas party at Stein and Vine in Niles.
To be a part of it all, a trip to the national website offers a number of ways to participate from simple donations to signing a petition to end senior hunger to donations made with the purchase touchup paint for a car.
To receive the Meals on Wheels service, call Christie’s office at 687-1462 and the recipient will be set up with Monday to Friday delivery, whether for a family member or for a neighbor in need. Some choose to receive meals two or three days a week and the local office can accommodate that as well.
Like the centerpiece elf, volunteers provide not only a meal, but also a visit by a caring person to neighbors who need them. The smile and they receive will make it all worthwhile, year-round.
Tags: Meals on Wheels