Volunteers dish out more than meals

By Observer editorial March 11, 2013 10:04 am

It’s a sad fact. One in seven seniors across America is threatened by hunger. Some 8.3 million seniors faced the threat in 2010. This is a 78 percent increase since 2001 — and a 34 percent increase since the start of the not-so-Great Recession in 2007.

But there is an answer. Some 85 percent of clients say Meals On Wheels helps them eat healthier, and 87 percent say Meals On Wheels helps improve their health. Ninety-one percent say Meals On Wheels helps them feel more secure, and 93 percent say Meals On Wheels means they can continue to live in their own home.

What brings this to mind is the recent story in The Observer about Glen and Verla Henry. Glen, 92, and Verla, 90, who drive for Meals on Wheels.

These nonagenarians agree that the key to happiness in old age is to stay busy. About 25 years ago, they started volunteering for Meals on Wheels, a program operated out of the Union County Senior Center. They’re two of about 15 people working in the program, which is now operated by Community Connection out of the senior center at Albany Street and Cove Avenue. The volunteers deliver meals five days a week to elderly folks in La Grande, North Powder, Union and Elgin.

 According to Meals on Wheels Coordinator Sydney Gleeson, providing hot nutritious meals for the homebound is but one of the program’s objectives. Another is to provide shut-ins with human contact.

Meals on Wheels is always looking for volunteers to help out in the kitchen and driving meals on wheels. To become a volunteer in the kitchen or driving for the Meals on Wheels program, call 541-963-7532 ext. 15 and speak to Sydney Gleeson.

By signing up to volunteer, people will experience the satisfaction of knowing they are providing a vital service to the community. They will make new friends, learn new skills, and probably grow in self-esteem and confidence. Their involvement is brightening others’ lives and making a difference.

People who have a loved one who needs Meals on Wheels can call 541-963-7532. People who are having surgery or are ill and need Meals on Wheels temporarily can also get help.

The meals are set at a suggested donation of $4 per meal. With that meal, people also get the comfort of someone checking on them daily. 

Although delivery of prepared meals is the basis of the service, Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal. It is also about ensuring people who may not be able to get out and about, enjoy regular social interaction and the comfort of knowing someone will drop by regularly to say hello and see how they are doing. Meals on Wheels also provides the opportunity for people to stay in their homes longer without going to assisted care. This program provides living with dignity and a welcome smile from a caring volunteer who makes the day that much better. 

The program volunteers, like Glen and Verla Henry, are the only link to the outside world for many. Without this program, many people would not be able to remain at home. They would go to a costly nursing facility.  This program makes our community a better place, neighbors helping neighbors.