07/31/04 — ‘Your lunch is here’: Temporary volunteers get a look at a program

View Archive

‘Your lunch is here’: Temporary volunteers get a look at a program

Give us day by day our daily bread.

—Luke 11:3


Sometime in the next couple of months, thousands of Wayne County residents will be asked to make a contribution to the United Way. When it happens to you, think of an old man, blind, living alone.

He cares for himself, mostly. He can even get out of the house and, feeling his way along, do a little outdoor work. His puttering around helps to fill his lonely days.

Or think of a woman about 85 years old. She lives alone, too, and in her isolation she sometimes gets confused.

This old woman got a nice surprise the other day. A bright-eyed volunteer knocked on her door and called out, “Meals on Wheels is here with your lunch!”

The woman answered the door and said, “I’m glad to see you. I didn’t think you’d come today since it’s Sunday.”

“Actually, this is Wednesday,” said the volunteer.

The woman was a little embarrassed, but she was glad to hear it. She was hungry.

The woman and the blind man talk to a volunteer for Meals on Wheels every weekday. Many days, as their hours drift slowly along, it is the only contact they have with a fellow human being.

Meals on Wheels is a simple concept. Meals are prepared in a kitchen and placed in individual takeout boxes. The boxes are stacked in insulated carriers. Volunteers deliver the meals, along with half-pint containers of milk carried in coolers.

The volunteers follow detailed directions from home to home. Along with the directions, the Meals on Wheels administrators at WAGES write the names of the recipients and note any special directions such as: “Mr. Jones is blind,” or “Mrs. Smith uses a walker, so give her plenty of time to answer the door.”

On Wednesday, some temporary volunteers made the deliveries just to get a look at the program. What they found was that the hot, nutritious but modest meal that they delivered was just a small part of the program. As much as the food, the recipients look forward to the brief visit with the person who brings it.

Something else: At one of the homes, an elderly woman was supposed to answer the door, but the doorbell got no response. The front storm door was locked and a car was present, so it appeared that someone was home. The volunteer knocked on the door to augment the bell, but still, no response. The inside of the house was dark.

The three members of the volunteer delivery team decided to finish their route and then come back to try again. That took about 30 minutes. When they returned to the house, they were relieved. The occupant answered the door and welcomed them. As it turned out, she simply hadn’t heard the doorbell on the first trip.

But suppose something had been wrong. Suppose she had been stricken, was unconscious and needed help. Or suppose she had fallen. Meals on Wheels would have been her link to help.

Think of that when you are asked to make a contribution to the United Way this year. That’s who pays for Meals on Wheels.

It is one of about two dozen programs that the United Way supports in Wayne County in 13 agencies. These include such agencies as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, Communities in Schools, the Lighthouse domestic-violence shelter, and others.

One woman who got a Meals on Wheels lunch said, jokingly, that she was 79 years old. The Meals on Wheels people know she is 97. Donnie Barnes, the United Way campaign chairman, noted that there would be children as young as 8 at the Boys and Girls Club that afternoon, so the United Way would be serving people from 8 to 97.

The annual campaign starts in a few weeks. Virtually all of the money that it raises will be used in Wayne County. Everyone should contribute to it, each according to his means.

When Jesus instructed his disciples to pray for daily bread, He did not mean only the kind of bread that perishes, but the bread that comes from above, too. Let us take it from home to home in our community, in generous portions.

Published in Editorials on July 31, 2004 11:11 PM