Jane Cigarran, OSU History Major


Meals On Wheels- How A Warm Meal Can Make A Community Stronger
June 10, 2017, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

After moving to the Corvallis, Oregon and starting a new job at Oregon State University in 2010, I decided that I wanted to get involved in volunteer work within the community. My  parents and grandmother also live in town, as do a large community of seniors and home bound citizens from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. My mother had been a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels when I was in middle school and I had tagged along a few times and enjoyed the experience. After calling the Chintimini Senior Center and speaking with Cynthia, the exuberant and matter-of-fact director of the program, I landed a spot as a weekly driver. The piece of advice I remember Cynthia giving me the first time we talked was “Don’t cancel at the last minute. If you don’t show up without planning ahead, it better be because you died.” She went on to tell the story of a driver where that actually did happen. While this may seem like a rather harsh way to start things off, it wasn’t and I appreciated her candor and dedication to the program she had been running for decades. She needed people to be reliable and care about what they were doing. I got the sense that there had been lots of well-meaning folks in the past that signed up in a moment of goodwill and then didn’t follow through. That was seven years ago and, while my route and customers have changed many times, I’m happy to report that I have been able to do this almost uninterrupted ever since! It’s part of my weekly routine and I look forward to it.

The Corvallis Chintimini Senior Center is located in Chintimini Park on the corner of 27th and Tyler.

A typical delivery day, while never totally predictable, looks something like this: Drivers arrive at the senior center around 11am and pick up their route sheets and two coolers, one that has a hot stone in it to keep meals warm, another that has lunch bags containing soup, bread, dessert and milk. The meals are served in to containers by volunteers on site. It’s up to the drivers to make sure they have the correct number of meals. There are always two meal options that customers pick out the month previous from a menu like this. Customers also have the choice milk or no milk or diet meals, so that’s another thing to make sure you have an accurate count on before loading up the car. Once I’m packed up and ready to drive, I’ll first take a look at the route sheet to see who is on the list that day. I generally deliver to about 10-12 homes and can complete my route in about an hour to 90mins.

A typical route list, the pink boxes indicate multiple meals being delivered to one residence.

One of my favorite things about being a driver for Meals on Wheels is meeting and talking to the people on my route. There are a huge variety of reasons why people sign up. Lloyd, for example, was very ill and his wife had broken her arm and couldn’t cook very much so they contacted Meals On Wheels. Having a prepared meal ready to go allows time for a caretaker to do other things, and many times the caretaker has physical ailments or limitations of their own.  This is a common scenario, where a spouse needs home care support and having a meal delivered in the middle of the day makes a big difference. Cathy, another customer on my route has a similar situation, although she also is caring for her disabled mother in additional to her terminally ill husband. She shared with me that “Meals on Wheels allows me a huge break from meal prep. People bringing meals, a smile and caring about us helps me, too. Home care is the loneliest job.”  Another wonderful customer on my route, and someone who has been on my route the longest is Ulo, who claims to be a horrible cook. “All I have to do now is say ‘thank you’. The meals delivered to me have lots of vegetables in them which I eat. I am not terribly fond of vegetables so left to my own devices I would eat hardly any.”

The meals, while not fancy, always include a veggie, protein and carbohydrates. The portions are moderately sized and I have heard from at least a few customers that the meals have improved over the years, which is great to hear. I’m sure there is always room for improvement but customers are very gracious and thankful regardless. Beyond providing nutrition and support for home bound folks, it’s a great opportunity for interaction with people in our community. Some of my customers don’t chat much, others love to have a quick visit, and that’s always enjoyable for me too. As Ulo so kindly states, “At times this is the only contact I have with other human beings. I am very thankful to all of these people who spend their time and energy to bring me food and good cheer. Some of these people even are beautiful and charming.” The reader must not assume that Ulo is speaking about me, but he better be (just kidding)!

Cool garden art at one of my customer’s homes.

Meals on Wheels and other programs like it are constantly in threat of being cut due to state and federal budget priorities. I would like to see more attention given to our aging population and see programs like these expanded not cut for the very simple reason that the need is only going to increase. In addition to all of the other great things I’ve discussed, Meals On Wheels allows elderly people who might otherwise need to move out of their homes and in to assisted living facilities, an opportunity to continue to live safely at home longer. This takes a little bit of stress and financial burden off of family members caring for them because they know that someone will check in each day and let them know if they observe anything awry. It also takes a bit of burden off of the community (hospitals, care facilities, etc.) in general as a form of preventative care, keeping elderly citizens safer in their homes.

Many customers leave signs on the door for drivers.

I hope to continue volunteering with Meals On Wheels until I’m old enough to retire and have someone deliver them to me! As luck would have it, a wonderful woman on my route for several years, Maryann, was the Assistant Dean of the College of Public Health & Human Sciences (formerly the College of Home Economics) at OSU in the 60s and 70s and co-authored the federal grant that created Meals on Wheels, so it was always a special honor to deliver her meal. Thank you, Maryann! I urge anyone interested in volunteering to contact their local senior center and get to it…you won’t be sorry.

In closing, Ulo says it best: “Three cheers to Meals on Wheels” and a 21 gun salute!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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May 19, 2017, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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