Spotlight: Volunteers of America Meals on Wheels

How a hot meal and some smiling faces can mean the world to Colorado seniors

3-11-15 Blog_Clarence

This is Clarence. He is 101 years old and he is still living in his home because of Volunteers of America Meals-On-Wheels. After 15 years as a Meals-on-Wheels client, the food delivered to him by Volunteers of America Meals-on-Wheels is still making it possible for Clarence to stay in his home and do the things he loves, like picking apples from the tree in his backyard.

Meals-On-Wheels staff members Kathy and Brooke told me about Clarence when they sat down to give me the Meals-on-Wheels low-down. Every day Meals-on-Wheels delivers and serves about 3,500 meals, which are made in the Volunteers of America kitchen and designed by a Volunteers of America Dietician. Approximately 1,000 volunteers deliver meals, greeting seniors and taking the meals directly into their houses.

Clarence is like many other homebound seniors who simply can’t make the nutritious meals that they need. For too many Meals on Wheels clients, the food that is delivered to them is the only meal they will eat in a day.

Meals-on-Wheels depends on volunteers and if there weren’t volunteers to make those deliveries some seniors literally wouldn’t eat, Kathy told me. There is currently a waiting list of people who need meals delivered, however there are not enough volunteers to deliver those routes.

Getting that meal, which provides 1/3 of daily dietary needs, is so important to maintaining clients quality of life, however the boosts to their spirits may be just as important. Brooke described how the food stops mattering as much to clients as the friendship they build with the volunteers delivering the meals.

Brooke gave me a little glimpse of what Meals-on-Wheels volunteers are saying:

“I frequently hear “you make my day” as I am many times the only person they see all day.”

“One of the ladies I see every week has trouble getting to the door and when she comes, she always has a big smile and she asks me to take her meal to the table because she can’t carry it with her walker. I’ll often say, “I hope you enjoy your meal today.” Her response is, “I know I will. Do you know why I know? Because I didn’t have to cook it!” Then a big smile! What an encouragement it is to me to see these folks every week!”

“I have a client who’s 98 years old and a poet. She invited me in so that she could share one of her poems with me. It was quite good and helped me to understand that I don’t serve “clients”, I have an opportunity to spend a few minutes with friends each week”

After hearing more stories than I can fit in this post, it was clear that Volunteers of America Meals-on-Wheels is such an important program that so many seniors rely on and is a program that is 100% dependent on people being willing to volunteer.

There are several ways to support Volunteers of America Meals-on-Wheels:

  1. TAKE A ROUTE: Taking a delivery route and helping Volunteers of America shrink the waiting lists of seniors needing meals is the most hands on way you can help. If this is something you want to do, email Brooke the Volunteer Coordinator, beastman@voacolorado.org.
  2. DONATE: $30 provides a whole week of meals for a homebound senior. Any donation you make to Volunteers of America will help ensure Meals-On-Wheels keeps running.

Jumping into Volunteers of America Colorado Head First

BlogPhotoPreschoolers and construction sites might not seem to go well together but are both full of organized chaos and are what filled my first day on the job as the new PR and Marketing Specialist for Volunteers of America Colorado. As someone new to Colorado and new to Volunteers of America, I had no idea what to expect my first day.

We started the day at Head Start, a program that gives low income or disadvantaged children, ages 3-5, the preparation they need to begin school. I watched as enthusiastic 3-year-olds dressed up in aprons and oven mitts, painted “abstract” watercolors and mixed together their own snacks to take home. The kids ran from play center to play center, all the while patient and caring teachers seamlessly transitioned from English to Spanish and gently reminded the students to wait their turn. Their school day ended with a warm lunch that filled the borrowed church gym with the smell of melted cheese and tomato soup.

Just down the road, exposed to the bitter cold, we visited a soon-to-be complete brick building full of just as much excitement as the preschool. This busy construction site is where Head Start will soon call their first permanent home. Some generous corporate donors, Volunteers of America staff and I strapped on hard hats and explore the new facility that will allow Head Start to reach even more kids and give the community a place to gather.

My first day on the job was anything but traditional however I am beginning to see how meeting the needs of the community, as Volunteers of America tirelessly does, will constantly look different. For instance, I met a senior volunteering at Head Start who values and benefits from her work as much as the preschoolers benefit from being a part of the program. Similarly, the wonderful corporate donors who toured with us were incredibly appreciative to help the community and wanted even more opportunities for their employees to be involved.

It is such a thrill to join the Development Team at Volunteers of America, have the opportunity to see every day the ways the organization is caring for the people of Colorado and watch as Volunteers of America inspires the community to pitch in. I most look forward to discovering all of the incredible stories happening because of Volunteers of America employees, donors, volunteers and friends in need.

Sarah Sadler
PR and Marketing Specialist
Voluteers of America Colorado