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Driven to serve gladly

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Photos by Hank Lohmeyer Joan and Roger Rhodes prepare the delivery for a stop in their Meals on Wheels route. The couple have been volunteering their time with Meals on Wheels for 25 years. They and others in the valley provide a valuable service to local

Becoming part of a small community means connecting with people.

There is no surer way for someone to know they're making a positive difference and connecting with the heart of a community than to find an avenue of service.

The people who volunteer as drivers for the Meals on Wheels program for Surface Creek Senior Citizens know exactly what that means. In fact, as important as the Meals on Wheels hot meal deliveries are to the people who receive them, drivers say they get more in personal fulfillment out of providing the service than their clients do. Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers enjoy the intangible benefits of esteem and genuine appreciation they receive from volunteering.

Three days each week, the drivers volunteer their time, their vehicles and their gasoline to deliver hot noontime meals to other members of their community who are homebound.

The dedication and contribution made by Meals on Wheels drivers is the same at all of the meal sites that provide the service. This article focuses on the Surface Creek Senior Citizens program.

Local program managers say that in winter some of the volunteer drivers travel south to enjoy the season in a milder climate. That risks creating gaps in the delivery program, a service essential to people's physical health and social well-being.

Roger and Joan Rhodes have been delivering Meals on Wheels hot lunches in the valley for 25 years. They started in 1991, and in a recent week they drove the route north of Cedaredge. Their six stops included a lady with Alzheimer's, a couple who have been active contributors to the community for years, and a woman who lives alone.

"Some of them just want to greet you at the door, and others want you to come in and visit for a while," explains Roger. "You just have to get to know how each one is different," Joan adds.

One client on last week's route was a woman who is suffering with macular degeneration. It was the first time the Rhodes had delivered to her, so Joan went to the door with Roger, who usually makes the door deliveries alone -- Joan serves as the driver.

The lady asked them in, and they visited for a few minutes about her medical condition before heading off to the next delivery stop.

Another stop was at the home of a couple who have been very involved in community activities for years. Now that the couple doesn't get out as much, the Rhodes and other Meals on Wheels volunteers provide a small but much appreciated "thank you" from the community for the couple's many years of service.

At another stop, Roger spoke with the son of a woman with Alzheimer's. "She began declining about 15 years ago," Roger said. The Rhodes have been constant and reliable friends through her ordeal.

Delivery days and routes for the Meals on Wheels program are completely compatible with almost anyone's schedule, whether an individual or a couple want to volunteer to deliver meals several times a week or just once or twice a month. There is also a need for substitute drivers, and there are never any payments to collect or accounts to keep.

The Rhodes, who moved to the valley from Boulder 30 years ago, found out about the program from neighbors. "The program needed help," Roger explained. "We had the time and were glad to chip in."

Now, 25 years later, they are still a part of the valuable Meals on Wheels community service effort.

The program provides much more than an essential nutritional benefit to people. Some of the stops are at the homes of people who live alone and may not see or have any interaction with another person that day, except for the Meals on Wheels driver.

The benefits of delivering meals are as real for the drivers as they are for their clients. Richard and Jeanne Palmer are both Cedaredge natives. They have been delivering meals for about a year.

"It's fun," says Richard. He and Jeanne note that the people they deliver to truly appreciate what the drivers are doing for them, and they show it.

Dennis and Natalie Meisinger are also volunteer drivers for the program. Their enthusiastic attitude exemplifies the spirit of this local service-to-others program.

Natalie says that making the deliveries is thoroughly enjoyable. Dennis notes that the couple has become "one of the family" to the people they deliver meals to.

"You really do become just like one of the family," Natalie said. "And even the family dog is glad to see you when you arrive," added Dennis.

"We get more out of it than they do," the couple agree.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Meals on Wheels is advised to stop by the Cedaredge Civic Center, Tuesday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and talk with the program managers, visit with drivers, and learn more about the program.

Seniors in the Surface Creek Valley are always glad to see these visitors at their front doors. Jeanne and Richard Palmer are two of the volunteer drivers who deliver nutritious, hot meals to homebound people for the Surface Creek Senior Citizens program. The volunteer service is a joy for the Palmers and for others with community spirit who sign up as drivers a few hours per month.
JoAn Hanson, right, is lead cook at the Surface Creek Senior Citizens meal site. She and Volunteers of America staff member Misty Paul begin their days at 7 a.m. preparing meals for seniors. They are shown filling and sealing the hot meal trays that Meals on Wheels drivers will deliver to their stops that day. JoAn, who has done the job for almost 20 years, recognizes the importance of the Meals on Wheels program and the value it has for people. “They might not get a hot meal that day otherwise,” she said.
One of the Surface Creek Senior Citizens Meals on Wheels program coordinators, Myrna Bertram, aids volunteer drivers with their route lists as they prepare to leave with the insulated carriers that keep meal deliveries at the proper temperature in transit to seniors’ homes.
Roger Rhodes talks about some of the considerable personal fulfillment that comes from volunteering for Meals on Wheels as he keeps track of the route list while his wife Joan does the driving.
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