Do you know where your next meal is coming from? Millions of Americans do not - especially seniors who live alone. But thanks to the Meals on Wheels non-profit organization, nearly 2.4 million seniors across the country are able to enjoy a hot, nutritious meal nearly every day. Meals on Wheels ensures that seniors have access to adequate nutrition even when family support, mobility and resources are lacking. It sometimes makes the difference between remaining in their own homes or relocating to a nursing facility.
With over 500 volunteers, the Meals on Wheels of Kingsport, Inc., delivers 215 meals every weekday to elderly and homebound Kingsport residents. The CFRS (Colonial Heights, Fordtown and Rock Springs) Meals on Wheels has 140-150 volunteers and delivers up to 60 meals a day. On weekends, volunteers from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church fill the need by supplying simpler meals.
The dedicated volunteers bring food, hope and a kind word to isolated senior citizens.
Shirley Borah is one grateful recipient of the meals. With no family, she depends on the daily hot meal as well as the friendship of the volunteers. Shirley said that she appreciates that the volunteers always have a smile and know her by name. “The friendly people are like angels coming to my house,” she said. “If I didn’t get Meals on Wheels I probably wouldn’t even eat. I would be lost without them,” she added.
For many people like Shirley, the Meals on Wheels volunteer is the only person they see or speak with all day. The special meal delivery gives them something to look forward to and a reminder that someone cares. It’s hard to imagine being that isolated from the outside world, but according to a 2017 U.S. Census Bureau report, 11 million seniors lived alone at the time of the census. That is one reason Meals on Wheels is such an important service to so many seniors.
Martha Jones, communications chair for the Meals on Wheels of Kingsport, has enjoyed helping cook the meals for several years now.
“We might not know these people, but when you deliver the meals, you get to know them,” she said. “Just for them to see someone who cares arrive at the door - it’s amazing. It’s not a job, it’s a ministry.”
The meals are prepared at First Presbyterian Church and Waverly Road Presbyterian Church. In 2017, Meals on Wheels of Kingsport delivered 53,969 meals.
Volunteers Joyce and Marlin Hamilton of the Fordtown area deliver meals for the CFRS Meals on Wheels. Once a month, they pick up the meals at Colonial Heights Baptist Church where the food is prepared. They deliver up to 14 meals, which takes around two hours. Often, they help homebound seniors with other things as well. Taking out the trash, reprogramming a TV remote or just chatting with the lonely residents is often part of what they do. “We enjoy it; it’s something we can do. We may not have a lot of money to give, but we can give our time,” Joyce said.
Expenses for the food and supplies are paid for by donations from a United Way grant, individual supporters, civic clubs, businesses and churches. Aside from the financial support, it is the volunteers who keep the Meals on Wheels organizations moving.
“We are volunteer-driven,” said Martha Jones. The need for volunteers is continuous, and there is a waiting list of recipients. “People might not get any food if you don’t take a meal,” she said.
Volunteers report a sense of satisfaction in helping to make a difference in the lives of these seniors.
“When you leave the kitchen or make the deliveries, you have a warm feeling that you made a difference for some people today. That’s why I do it,” said Martha.
Joyce and Marlin Hamilton also wanted to make a difference.
“The Lord has blessed us. We have been very fortunate in our life to have what we need,” said Joyce. “If we can give somebody a helping hand and a kind word, we feel we are doing something to help people.”
Bonny Agner, Route Captain for the CFRS Meals on Wheels, has worked with the organization for over 30 years. “This is one of the best volunteer organizations that a person can help with,” she said. “When we see Jesus Christ, we are going to be able to say we have tried to feed the hungry.”
To volunteer with the Meals on Wheels of Kingsport, make a donation, or to be added to the recipient list, contact Brenda Overbey at (423) 247-4511 or email at [email protected] For the Colonial Heights (CFRS) Meals on Wheels, call (423) 239-5123, extension 111, or email at [email protected] Someone’s next meal just might depend on it!