Options for Individuals is a small group of mentally challenged young adults. This group has delivered more than 1,000 meals to the homebound and elderly senior citizens throughout the Louisville Metropolitan area in 1996.
The pilot program began in the spring of 1993, with only a few mobile meal clients and one mentally challenged person willing to help bridge the gap. Today, Options for Individuals delivers along four routes each week, reaching out to more than 50 meal recipients. Many times, like the meal client, the volunteers themselves often become isolated and lonely, separated from the rest of society. The volunteer is able to provide a warm smile, along with a much needed hot nutritious lunch, while the seniors can foster a special friendship with the volunteer.
The Meals on Wheels Program in the Louisville area serves over 750 meals daily and is dependent on a core group of dedicated volunteers performing deliveries. "Options" volunteers help by freely giving their time. Both of the frail, homebound elderly and mentally challenged young adults are sometimes feared and often ignored.
Many senior citizens remain on long waiting lists to receive meals, in part due to the overwhelming need for volunteers. By incorporating the needs of the mentally challenged with the needs of homebound senior citizens, we enter into a win-win situation that provides tangible benefits to both segments of our population.
Due to the tremendous success and amount of positive feedback, similar agencies have joined Meals on Wheels, forming a growing relationship between the mentally challenged and homebound elderly that has created a larger volunteer base. Currently, six of the meal routes operate weekly, delivering over 70 meals to elderly seniors.
As resources become more limited, our society will enter into the 21st Century with a greater need for volunteerism. By developing innovative solutions that broaden community support, all people can become a vital asset to one another, regardless of age or abilities.