Meals on Wheels volunteer has a direct impact on people. It’s ‘incredibly rewarding and important’
By Mary Beth Roach
Q. How long have you been volunteering for Meals on Wheels? I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t part of my life. But it’s only been 4 ½ years.
Q. What do you mean when you say that you can’t remember? Because it’s become so important to me. I retired from education. I was an administrator toward the end of my career. You’re not directly working with children. Here, you have a direct impact on people every day. I love that. It makes me very happy. I look forward to doing as many shifts as I can every week.
Q. How many [shifts] do you do? In the beginning I thought I’m only going to do two. Now I do doubles. I sign up for two or three days. If Tina (Casella, volunteer coordinator at MOW) calls and I don’t have something I can’t change, I’ll do it. I recently joined the board here. I’ve seen a part I didn’t see as a volunteer about how hard this group works to provide nutritious meals, how much they care about clients, how respectful people are all the time. It’s a privilege to be here.
Q. What prompted you to get involved in Meals on Wheels? When I retired, after being a workaholic, I identified organizations that I might like to get involved with. I had a short list.
Q. What is the best part of your work? It’s absolutely seeing the clients every day. It makes my day. They trust us. I love seeing our people.
Q. How was it during the pandemic? I went out of town in March 2020, right when things were getting bad. My son lived in South Florida. My son, his wife and their housemate got sick. Their housemate ultimately passed away. I didn’t get sick. I took care of them. I got back here; I was so proud Meals on Wheels was still trucking along. They made some changes, did only frozen or cold foods and cut down delivery days to three a week. People still got five days’ worth of food, but we did it on three days.
Q. How many clients do you yourself deliver to? Usually about 13-14.
Q. How do you handle the weather? I grew up in the south. I’ve been here since 1991. I still get very excited with a snowstorm. I think it’s quite fun to slog through the snow. I feel kind of like the post office — rain, sleet, snow or hail. We provide clients with a “blizzard pack” so they’ve got spare meals. If the weather is really, really bad, we’ll close. It doesn’t happen very often.
Q. You volunteer outside of MOW. Why is that important to you? Meals on Wheels is a very small commitment of hours a day, — two or less. For the rest of my day, when I am out in my neighborhood, I’m happy to pitch in and help when I see that something needs to be done. It’s my neighborhood. I’m proud of it. I’m happy to help with the upkeep and the beautification of where I live. It’s important, as a citizen, to take care of where we live.
Q. Is there anything you’d like to add? While I was enjoying my Meals on Wheels experience up to COVID, when it came around, I realized how food-insecure many of our neighbors are. This became important to me, food insecurity is huge. For some, this is it, all they get. Being a part of an organization that serves a need you can see, and at the end of the day, you know you fulfilled at least part of that need. I find it incredibly rewarding and important.
For those interested in volunteering or becoming a client, visit: www.meals.org or call 315-478-5948.
Featured image: Linda Llewellyn, who turned 65 in April, is one of about 350 volunteers for Syracuse Meals on Wheels, helping deliver about 192,000 meals to 400 clients annually.