Meals on Wheels: delivering a warm meal (and much more) to Chatham County seniors

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For many years, I have heard about the Meals on Wheels program and how it provides a warm, nutritious meal to older adults who may otherwise go hungry. In early December, I got to experience firsthand how the program makes a difference in the lives of Chatham County seniors by delivering these meals and so much more.

Around 10:30 a.m. that morning, Alan Russo, who oversees the nutrition program at the Chatham County Council on Aging Eastern Senior Center in Pittsboro, began packing up food delivery bags. Some bags were insulated to keep hot meals warm. Other bags were filled with ice packs to keep perishable items cold.

Even while wearing his face covering, I could see Mr. Russo beaming with joy as he prepared the day’s meals.

“Being able to feed those who can’t get regular, warm meals is really important,” Russo said. “It makes their day to see someone, a friendly face, at their door. Sometimes, we might be the only people they see.”

The Chatham County Council on Aging currently serves approximately 80 seniors through its Meals on Wheels program. Delivering meals to this many folks five days a week is no small feat. About 65 volunteer drivers have regular Meals on Wheels routes and another 40 drivers serve as backup volunteers who can fill in as needed. The volunteers serve a critical need. The warm meal leads to a warm conversation, which goes a long way in connecting many of these seniors with the community.

Larry Ross is one of the volunteer drivers. He currently serves as president on the Council on Aging’s Board of Directors, but he has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels for six years. I got to ride along with him on his regular Monday delivery route. It was a beautiful day as we traveled along U.S. Hwy. 64 and lots of rural roads in Chatham County.

“This is where you get to know the people,” said Ross. “We’re not just delivery drivers. We provide meaningful conversation, and we become their friends.”

Eighty-seven-year-old Mary Reaves, of Pittsboro, can attest to that friendship. Mrs. Reaves not only anticipates the delicious meal she receives from Ross, but she also looks forward to seeing her friend.

“He is so wonderful, and I appreciate him and this meal so much,” she said.

During our route, we delivered meals to seven Chatham County seniors. It was a great feeling to watch Mr. Ross deliver each meal with care and compassion.

Meals on Wheels volunteers can check on other things in the home as they come to know the people they visit. For example, if they see some minor home repairs that need to be made, they can refer those needs to Council on Aging staff.

Between now and Jan. 3, Subaru of America will donate $250 to local senior nutrition programs, like Chatham County’s, for every new vehicle purchased or leased, when the customer chooses Meals on Wheels as their charity of choice. Learn more at www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/sharethelove.

If you would like to learn about the Meals on Wheels program and other ways the Chatham County Council on Aging makes a difference in the lives of seniors, visit: https://chathamcouncilonaging.org. You can also find out how to volunteer at https://chathamcouncilonaging.org/volunteer or by calling 919-542-4512.

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