My grandparents, mom, and my son have all volunteered at Meals on Wheels . During Covid-19, my son Henry volunteered in Rhode Island. Yes, Meals on Wheels, the senior meal delivery nonprofit in operation since 1969, did not stop service during Covid-19. In 2020, 2,748 homebound clients were served throughout the state of Rhode Island. Talk about delivery heroes!
Meg Grady, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels Rhode Island
I tagged along with Henry a few times last winter. Before we started on the delivery route, we stopped at Meals on Wheels Rhode Island headquarters on Bath St. in Providence. There Ozzie, who seems like the “mom” of the organization, came out to say hi and see if we were all situated. Henry loaded the meals in the car and double checked to see if he had everything—meals, birthday cards, notices, and directions. We took off for Pawtucket and started the route on Broad Street. If you want to get to know a city, volunteer for Meals on Wheels RI. Henry used GPS but I read the directions and tried to get my bearings in a city that has always turned me around. And I live here. Lots of one-ways.
Each stop required a knock on the door, then a wait, and then maybe a phone call. Some people said a quick hi and took the meal, others chatted for a while. Then, onto the next address. Sometimes two meals were delivered for two homebound seniors living together. Sometimes there was just one person, but snow was in the forecast and so two meals were delivered in case of a storm the next day. If it was someone’s birthday, that client received a card.
What was striking to me was that I had never thought of Meals on Wheels RI as a community builder, but more of a food supplier. But for people who cannot get out of the house, it often is their community. Having a daily conversation with a smiling someone who says first, “I am here” and then, “See you next week” is meaningful. It might be the only contact some homebound seniors receive the entire day. And during Covid-19! Many interactions that might have been were halted. I could also see that the interactions were valuable to Henry, too. It feels good to make people smile. His whole route was just about an hour, delivering to 15 to 20 people. That’s 15 to 20 people who received a meal and a check-in in the same amount of time it takes to stream a couple of episodes of Tiger King on Netflix. Time well spent.
Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island is not just about delivering nutritious meals to homebound seniors. It is an interaction, a safety-check, a smile. It tells an individual that they matter and are not forgotten. I think we all want that.