For some seniors, receiving a delivery from Meals On Wheels is their only outside interaction, Cathy Duderstadt said.
“That’s the only contact they have all day, so they’ll be sitting by the window or the door, watching for that volunteer to bring that meal every day,” Duderstadt, Mid-America Nutrition Program director, said.
To help raise awareness about the importance of Meals On Wheels to the seniors who receive the service, Mid-America Nutrition is taking part in Community Champions Week Monday through Friday this week, in which local elected officials in the six counties Mid-America Nutrition serves, volunteer to help deliver meals throughout the county, Duderstadt said.
Every year, the Meals On Wheels Association of America holds its March for Meals campaign where the Meals On Wheels providers work to come up with ways to spread the word about Meals On Wheels and how to receive meals if needed, a press release from Mid-America Nutrition, said.
“It’s an outreach project to make people aware of what Meals On Wheels are and how to get them, if you need meals or someone you know needs the meals, or if you want to volunteer — how that’s possible to do,” Duderstadt said.
The national group previously had its Mayors for Meals campaign, Duderstadt said, but realized that more than just mayors are interested in helping.
“It can be an elected official, a business person. We’ve had firefighters, policemen, local celebrities, commissioners, state representatives — anybody who is interested could volunteer to do this,” she said. “The goal was to get 2,000 champions registered, and they’ve surpassed that goal. In our six-county area, there are 49 champions for Mid-America Nutrition Program.”
Local officials who participated included Linda Reed, Ottawa city commissioner; Marie Seneca, Pomona mayor; Bill Lytle, Wellsville mayor; Mike McAfee, Wellsville city commissioner; Jeanine Berrier, Wellsville planning commission chair; Scott Averill, Wellsville Retirement Village owner; Sheldon Snow, Richmond mayor; Connie Weber, Richmond Library director; Bill Chester, Lane mayor; Rick Howard, Franklin County commissioner; and Shiela Worden and Dennis Norton, Williamsburg city commissioners.
For Seneca, it was her second time volunteering to deliver meals to seniors, she said, something she enjoys being able to do.
“It was fantastic,” she said. “It was a joy to see the warm, friendly faces and to know how much they appreciated the hot meal and the contact as well.”
Many of the seniors who receive meals are unable to leave their homes, Seneca said.
“It’s a chance to see faces,” Seneca said. “Some people who are home-bound, I wouldn’t get to see them if not for delivering a meal to them.”
‘THAT’S WHY WE DO IT’
March for Meals is a month-long initiative, but the Community Champions Week is an abbreviated campaign. The whole point of March for Meals is to bring awareness to the program, Duderstadt said.
“I think [Meals On Wheels] is one of those things that until you need it or someone in your family needs it, you’re not always aware of it,” she said. “Some might say, ‘My mother’s kind of frail and can’t cook meals for herself and my dad anymore. How do I make sure they’re getting the nutrition they need?’ or ‘I can’t be there to check on them every day. How can I get that done?’ and Meals On Wheels does that. They provide the daily wellness check and a nutritious meal.”
Meals On Wheels is more than just home deliveries, Duderstadt said.
“Not only do we do home-delivered meals, but we have nutrition sites for seniors who can get out and socialize. They go there to get a meal,” she said. “A suggested $3 donation is asked for, but if someone is unable to pay that we never deny them a meal.”
A nutritious meal is a tool in the program’s overall mission, Duderstadt said.
“Our mission is to keep seniors healthy and independent in their own homes as long as possible,” she said. “None of us wants to go to a nursing home. We want to be in the comfort of our own home. That’s why we do it.”
A NON-EVENT EVENT
Part of the March for Meals initiative also involves a non-event event, Duderstadt said — something new Mid-America Nutrition is trying out.
For many years, Mid-America Nutrition played host to a big event in March during its March for Meals campaign, she said, but Mother Nature always worked against them.
“I guess we had laughed at ourselves because for so many years we go through bad weather,” she said. “We plan this big event, and Mother Nature rains on our event with ice and snow and sleet. Events are fun, but it’s a lot of work to do and have half the people invited show up because the weather is so bad. And it seems KU is always playing on that night.”
Instead of planning a big event only to have the plans ruined by outside elements, Duderstadt and her staff decided to do something a little different, she said.
An invitation was sent out for people to attend the non-event event where they were asked to stay home and avoid the possibly bad weather, and instead send in a donation.
“We so appreciate our donors around here because I think we live in an area where people are kind to us and generous,” she said. “We have a lot of money to raise to run the program.
“I appreciate [our donors], and I would feel terrible if one of them got hurt coming to one of our events.”