Daily Point of Light # 2483 Aug 12, 2003

Meals On Wheels (MOW) volunteers deliver hot, nutritious meals to homebound seniors in Kalamazoo County. They enable homebound seniors the opportunity to live in their own home and eat nutritious meals seven days a week. Last year, 175 volunteers delivered 206,019 meals to 1,082 individuals.

Of course, volunteers provide much more than a meal. They provide the frail elderly with a link to the outside world and companionship to seniors who may have few friends or social contacts left. They provide peace of mind not only for the seniors, but also for their families who may live in other towns or states.

MOW volunteers’ impact on the community is substantial. Seniors who are unable to cook for themselves often have to be institutionalized, which is more costly to tax payers than if they are able to remain in their own home. It is difficult to estimate the impact that a face-to-face encounter has on a lonely man or woman, sitting at home waiting for someone to bring them a cooked meal. In a mundane environment, a smiling face and a hot meal are eagerly awaited.

MOW volunteers, young and old alike, are the unsung heroes of Kalamazoo County. Their dedication and selflessness enables frail, homebound seniors to stay in their home surrounded by their pets, possessions and a lifetime of memories. Volunteers donate not only their time, but also their own money for gas. Kalamazoo is very fortunate to have a large number of MOW volunteers who deliver meals for free. Because of this, there is no waiting list here, unlike other cities. In addition, because of this free delivery service, grant money for the program can be applied to producing a larger number of meals than would be possible if drivers had to be paid for their 17,578 hours of service last year. When calculated at a value of $16.05 per volunteer hour, MOW drivers of Kalamazoo donated $282,127 dollars worth of free service to their community last year.

Aside from providing nourishment, volunteers have also saved lives. Volunteers have discovered clients who fell and could not get up, they rescued a client from a burning trailer, and they have stayed with individuals until the ambulance arrived. Volunteers have gone above and beyond the call of duty by bringing dog biscuits to pets on their route, shoveling around the mailbox so that mail can be delivered, and bringing mail and newspapers into the house. They have taken out the garbage, walked dogs, changed light bulbs, connected answering machines, and hunted for glasses and hearing aids. On more than one occasion, they have alerted caseworkers to potential problems.

For many individuals, Meals On Wheels is a very positive experience that sparks interests in other volunteer opportunities. Each story is unique, each volunteer is a real treasure. The MOW volunteers deliver much more than a meal; they deliver peace of mind, a sense of hope, and the knowledge that someone cares.