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GET OUT AND GIVE BACK/Meals on Wheels Delivery with Senior Services of Alexandria

Jane Hess Collins
By Jane Hess Collins
Posted on Feb 28,2012
Filed Under News , Community,

Better than takeout...Donna and Joan get ready for the first Meals on Wheels delivery.
Better than takeout...Donna and Joan get ready for the first Meals
on Wheels delivery.

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - It’s been 5 ½ years since my last Meals on Wheels (MOW) project.

Now, working through Senior Services of Alexandria, I was eager to see if my MOW experience with them was different than it was in 2006.

The conclusion? Happily, no. Meals on Wheels is still a warm, wonderful way to visit our older neighbors, however briefly, by hand-delivering a hot and a cold meal to them five or six days a week.

The logistical tail of a MOW delivery is a long one. I arrived at the Hermitage, a senior citizen retirement community, at 10 a.m. on Friday. Dolores was already matching routes, volunteers and insulated delivery bags full of the meal du jour-sausage on macaroni with peas, carrots and corn.

Dolores assigned me to help deliver meals in the Landmark Mall area of Alexandria, or Route 5 of the MOW driving plan. She paired me with Donna, a retired Army linguist and her friend Joan. Donna was a veteran MOW deliverer, having started out delivering once a month and now graduated to six or seven times a month or whenever she is needed.

It's hard not to get attached to your MOW clients-actually it's a perk.
It's hard not to get attached to your MOW
clients-actually it's a perk.

A “Route 5” binder spelled out step-by-step driving directions for each of the four stops, along with the name of each client. We had 12 meals to deliver, most of which were for seniors living in one of several high-rise apartments or condos. A MOW delivery is, Donna said, a two-person operation, with one driving and the other riding shotgun to navigate.

I suppose one person could do it all with a GPS, but what fun is that?

Most of our clients lived in secured apartment and condominium communities, with keypad entry and lobby security. That isn’t always the case for Meals on Wheels clients, and I remembered some who lived on the ground floor of an open apartment complex with nothing but trust in others to protect them.

“Always call the client by name,” Donna said. “It’s a friendly way to let them know we are Meals on Wheels volunteers.”

We arrived at the first apartment door. “Hello, Betty,” Donna called out as she knocked on the door. “Meals on Wheels.”

Betty, leaning on her walker, opened the door. We gave her the hot tray and the cold meal bag, which contained milk, a sandwich and fruit to eat later in the day.

The clients we served greeted us wearing everything from head-to-toe in Redskins pajamas to go-out-to-dinner clothing complete with jewelry and makeup. Some invited us in (we politely refused) and seemed eager to talk with us. How often is this 60-second exchange the only conversation our seniors have every day?

Each client was a character in his or her own way. One guy couldn’t resist flirting with us. Did one client secretly harbor cats? Another client didn’t answer the door, and it took several phone calls back to Dolores before we decided to move on.

A few of the clients left their doors slightly ajar for us, which still concerned me a little although they lived in a protected building. I will always be fearful of the trust that the elderly place in the rest of us.

Meals on Wheels is the primary volunteer need at Senior Services of Alexandria and with only two-hour commitment each month, it takes very little time. Click here for to find out how you can serve our greatest generation.

Jane Hess Collins helps and encourages people to give back through her volunteering, writing, speaking, coaching and workshops. You can follow her other Get Out and Give Back volunteer stories on Facebook, Twitter and her website. If you’d like her to volunteer with your organization, contact her here.

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