Leaders pitch in to help with COA Meals on Wheels program

Published 10:49 am Tuesday, March 22, 2016

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Normally a one-man operation, longtime Cass County COA volunteer Jim Beebe received some assistance with his Meals on Wheels delivery route Monday morning.

State Sen. John Proos took a more hands-on approach than usual when it comes to serving the needs of his constituents that morning, joining Beebe as they drove throughout Cassopolis and Niles, giving out lunches prepared earlier that morning by COA chefs to homebound residents. In addition to keeping track of the households they had visited, Proos joined Beebe as they personally delivered the warm meals to the residents.

“It’s nice to have an assistant for once,” Beebe joked.

Proos pitched in with the COA Meals on Wheels program as part of the agency’s month-long celebration of the March for Meals, an annual nationwide campaign designed to raise awareness for the importance the meal delivery service has to elderly Americans. State Rep. Aaron Miller also assisted with delivery that morning; on Tuesday, Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood will help out with one of the delivery routes, while Probate Judge Susan Dobrich will lend a hand in the COA’s cafeteria.

One of the first programs established by the Cass County COA, Meals on Wheels assists more than 100 senior citizens living in the county, which are personally delivered by one of several dozen volunteer drivers. Beebe, a member of the COA board of directors and a 13-year driver for Meals on Wheels, delivers meals twice a week, maintaining a route that takes him through Cassopolis and Howard Township.

“I just wanted to help people,” Beebe said about why he started volunteering. “They [the COA] needed people to do it, so I decided to pitch in and help.”

Sen. Proos is quickly becoming a veteran of the program as well — while his first time lending a hand to the Cass County COA, he has assisted with deliveries with Meals on Wheels programs in Berrien and St. Joseph counties, he said. Through his volunteer work, he has gained further insight into the importance that Meals on Wheels provides to the seniors he represents in Lansing.

“In some cases, it’s the only regular contact these seniors have with others,” Proos said. “The drivers often become an important part in their lives.”

Delivering food directly to homebound seniors also allows them to remain independent for a lot longer, instead of needing to live in nursing facility or other senior institution, Proos said.

“As the proverb goes, you can tell the character of a community by how they treat their elders,” Proos said. “Organizations like Meals on Wheels and the COA show us a great path for caring for our elderly.”