NORTH FULTON, Ga. – When a Meals on Wheels volunteer knocks on the door of an elderly client, he or she is bringing much more than a meal.
That’s the message Senior Services Director Carrie Bellware wants to get out with the annual Mayors for Meals event, when mayors across the country and North Fulton get out March 20 to bring seniors a meal and to give them something else – a bit of human contact, some conversation and reassurance that someone is checking to see how they are getting along.
“For some of our clients, that volunteer at the door may be the only person a client sees all day,” said Bellware. “For many of them, this is their social network. It is so much more than just the meal. It’s a connection to our volunteers – a caring person who is checking in with them to make sure they are OK.”
Roswell Mayor Jere Wood and Senior Services North Fulton volunteers paid a visit to resident Nancy Dickerson, 75, and her daughter Mary, to deliver their lunch as part of Mayors for Meals Day. Both Dickersons rely on the meals.
“I’m thankful for what [SSNF] does,” said Wood. “It warms my heart to take care of folks in need. These are old-time residents of Roswell.”
Volunteers deliver meals five days a week and they stock them up extra on Fridays for the weekends. And it is not always the same volunteers. Few people can deliver every day. Some volunteers drive once a month, some once a week.
“We are the only program in the metro area that is able to deliver meals solely with volunteers,” Bellware said.
That is 2,000 meals a month delivered throughout the six cities of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta, Milton and Mountain Park.
Seniors participate in the program for a number of reasons and seldom is it just because they are on a fixed income.
For some, yes, it is because food is so expensive these days. For others, it is a way to make sure they get the daily nutrition they need – they’re not just opening up a can of beans or a bag of potato chips because it’s easy.
Some seniors can no longer drive, so shopping is a problem. Others find it hard to stand for even short periods, so they can’t cook anymore.
“It’s really difficult if you must use a walker or a wheelchair to prepare a meal anymore,” Bellware said.
With Meals on Wheels, seniors can not only get good nutrition, but food that is also appropriate to their dietary condition as well.
“We’re grateful for the meals,” said senior Dickerson. “They help out a lot. We greatly need these services and we appreciate it.”
With both Dickersons diabetic, they receive specially prepared meals from SSNF that feature low sodium.
“Nutritionally balanced meals help clients manage health issues such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and hypertension,” Bellware said.
So the program not only promotes a client’s health, but it allows clients to stay in their homes longer.
Last year, volunteers donated 22,000 hours to get meals to clients.
Anyone who would like to volunteer should contact Senior Services North Fulton by calling Deena Takata, volunteer program manager at SSNF, at 770-993-1906. To make a donation, go to ssnorthfulton.org.
-Jonathan Copsey contributed to this article