More than a meal
Meals on Wheels brings food, companionship to the elderly
A group of volunteers converges at a Fort Dodge supermarket every weekday just before 11 a.m. to pick up freshly prepared meals.
Those volunteers will then spend the next hour driving around Fort Dodge, delivering the meals to senior citizens who are often sick or disabled, or otherwise unable to get out and about.
Those Meals on Wheels volunteers bring more than hot food to the people they visit. Their mere presence brings a needed bit of human companionship to people who may be lonely.
”I think it speaks to our community and our community’s commitment to taking care of our senior citizens,” said Barb Michaels, the coordinator of the program, ”I think it really speaks to how supportive we are of our elders.”
Meals on Wheels in its current form started in Fort Dodge in March 2017. Since then it has delivered more than 26,000 meals, according to Michaels.
She said there are now ”well over 100 volunteers” involved. Some of those volunteers use their lunch hours from work to deliver the food.
Some of the volunteers are people who signed up individually. Others came to the program as a team with several of their co-workers. Employees from Availa Bank, Cargill, CJ Bio America, Gunderson Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Head Start and Lifeworks are among the volunteer teams. Volunteers also come from local churches.
”Cargill being a global food company is very interested in supporting the communities in which it’s located, especially around programs that involve food,” said Chuck Corell, an environmental manager at the Cargill plant west of Fort Dodge.
He said there are six to eight local Cargill employees who make deliveries for Meals on Wheels. They are all giving up their lunch hours to do so.
”Every volunteer wanted to pitch in and do their part,” Corell said.
”We do intend to remain committed,” he added.
The volunteers are divided into eight delivery groups. Each group works one week delivering food, so the volunteers know that their turn comes up once every eight weeks.
The food is prepared by Hy-Vee, 115 S. 29th St. Each weekday, the volunteers who will be delivering the food go to that supermarket to pick up the meals.
Each volunteer will stop at eight to 10 homes. When they arrive at a home, they don’t just hand over the food containers and leave.
”All of our volunteers spend just a little bit of time with our clients,” Michaels said. ”Our volunteers can be their only contact for the day.”
It takes about an hour for each volunteer to complete their deliveries.