The meal is simple and healthy. There are smiles on both sides of the door, followed by friendly greetings as the volunteer - a stay-at-home mom, an employee at a local company, a neighbor or even a relative - hands his or her neighbor, father or community member lunch. They chat for a few minutes, then say goodbye until next week.
These people - the volunteers, the elderly residents they visit - are part of the local Meals-on-Wheels. It's a program that various levels of government funds and Mountainland Association of Governments administers, serving about 475 seniors. Hundreds of residents volunteer. Here are a few of their stories.
During my nearly two years delivering Meals-on-Wheels, I have enjoyed many great experiences.
I remember the day one senior gave me his business card with the words "Psycho-Hypnosis" printed under his name. He then promised he could help me give up anything in my life that I didn't want anymore. I also really loved the day that I asked one senior if there was anything she needed. She hesitated and then asked if I'd mind picking up a loaf of her favorite kind of whole wheat bread. That might have been my favorite trip to the grocery store ever.
But perhaps my favorite memory occurred earlier this year, on Valentine's Day. The night before, I sat at my kitchen table cutting out hearts in different shades of pink and purple. When the hearts were all glued together I wrote on each one, "Happy Valentine's Day! Love, Susie (your Monday driver)." There was just one that was different. It read, "Happy Valentine's Day Grandma! I Love You! XOXO." You see, I am lucky enough to deliver a meal to my own grandma every single Monday. She is the last person on my route, and on Mondays she always gives me a kiss and a magazine. So off I went on this Valentine's Day, carefully tucking the paper hearts between the milk and the apple on the top of each meal. When I got to my last stop, I realized with horror that I only had one heart left and it did not say Grandma on it. I realized immediately that I had given the one for my grandma to someone else on my route.
I never found out who received my "I Love You Grandma!" valentine. It wasn't until a few days later that I realized it didn't really matter, because I love every single one of those seniors as if they were my grandma.
Susie Yorgason, Orem
When I was young, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. It grew to the point that she couldn't take care of herself. I remember visiting and having nice people come to her door with a smile and a nutritious meal. When I started working at United Way of Utah County, I learned that Mountainland Association of Governments had this volunteer opportunity to deliver meals to senior citizens and other community members in need of a little extra help.
I quickly registered to be a part of the United Way of Utah County team of volunteers who deliver meals. Since my involvement with Meals-on-Wheels, I have gained 10 new best friends. Many of them suffer from different medical conditions that could bring pessimism and discouragement to life, but that certainly is not what I find. I find genuine concern for me and my life. Never do they complain. Instead, they offer a smile and friendly visit.
On one occasion, I was having a hard day with work and dealing with what you could call a low moment. After our normal visit, one of the recipients asked if I was OK, and I responded that I was. This sweet lady knew me well enough to know that something was weighing on me. She then offered some wisdom that only could come from one who had lived life well. She said, "Well, remember, the best is always ahead." Her words rang true to my heart and changed my outlook and perspective from that day forward.
Never have I ever finished delivering the meals without feeling like my life was enriched and strengthened from the quiet examples and sometimes even quiet advice my new friends share with me. They really are the ones giving service to me.
Jeremy Cleek, Provo
I have enjoyed delivering Meals-on-Wheels for the past six months. When I saw the Meals-on-Wheels truck come into my neighborhood, I thought that would be fun to do. However, after volunteering I learned I didn't get a truck to drive; instead I delivered meals using my own car.
Volunteering once a week isn't a burden for anyone; plus it is an opportunity to visit people in their homes and be greeted with a big smile and "thank you." One gentleman has a note on his door for the Meals-on-Wheels person to put his meal in his refrigerator. There is always an open space to put his meal. I always inquire about how they are doing. It's interesting to me that most of the individuals aren't just sitting and watching TV, but are doing something constructive with their hands, sewing something or working on a puzzle. Each visit is always a positive experience. It warms my heart to see these individuals happy and dealing with their health issues. Serving others helps me forget about my own problems.
Richard Parsons, Orem
I remember driving down the street a few years ago and seeing a Meals-on-Wheels truck drive by. My heart gave a little leap in my chest, and I knew that I wanted to be part of this organization.
I thought that I could make a difference in the lives of others while being a stay-at-home mom. I also realized that I could teach my children the importance of serving their elders.
As a result, my children have enjoyed being able to deliver meals to my senior friends with me. My children have been able to learn to appreciate and adopt grandparents that they may have not gotten to know any other way.
Delivering meals is very rewarding. It is making friends with seniors that will last me a lifetime. It doesn't take that much time in a day to be able to deliver a meal and lend a listening ear. Another senior friend was able to cry on my shoulder the day that her husband died.
It is fun to have a senior friend tell you what a wonderful smile you have or to tell you some precious gems of wisdom that they have learned over a lifetime. One senior on my route was just very excited to be able to show someone the new earrings that she had just received in the mail.
Delivering meals is not all about the food I deliver to the senior citizens on my route. It is the friends that I have been able to make. It is looking forward to talking to these seniors each week and being able to share a few minutes of their lives with them. I always come home feeling that my senior friends have given me much more than the few minutes and food that I have left with them.
Michelle Johnston, Pleasant Grove
I have been a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer for almost three years. I have always found a personal satisfaction in serving others, so when my kids were old enough and I was no longer needed as a classroom volunteer, I sought out other opportunities and came across the Meals-on-Wheels program.
Let me just say, I love these seniors! They are like my second family, and all have become my grandparents. Our delivery route takes about 45 minutes to an hour to deliver, but I often, without even realizing it, find myself reaching the two-hour mark by the time I take the time to chat with each of them and get caught up on the week's happenings. The stories range from the "old days" and sledding down the streets in the winter, the train tracks that used to go down Main Street, serving in the military in Japan and how much things have changed.
When one of the seniors on our route had her hip replaced, I visited her in the hospital, and just to see how happy she was to have me visit, made my day! She was on medication at the time and was telling me stories of the bugs crawling out of the hole in the wall. Today we just laugh about it. After all, isn't laughter the best medicine?
I love the stories of family, friends and loved ones - all stories well worth listening to and well worth my time. I know I am making just as much of a difference in their lives as they are making in mine and I wouldn't trade any of it in for the world.
Christy Bowen, Spanish Fork
I love being a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer! It is one of the highlights of my week. I started a little more than a year ago. I had some health problems, and in an attempt to heal myself, I had withdrawn from anything extra in my life. I really missed the high you get from serving other people.
When I saw the want ad for volunteers, I knew it would be perfect. It is something I can do once a week for about an hour and a half. When I started, I had my 5-year-old daughter at home, and she loved coming with me and being in charge of the rolls and milk. The seniors loved to see her and hear about our family. I've been able to bring my other kids with me on occasion, and it has been a great opportunity for them to see how much joy and fun can come from serving others.
The seniors are great. They are so happy to see you come and have you visit for a few minutes. I have loved getting to know them. There have been times we have cried together over the loss of a spouse, commiserated over raising children, eaten scones together, looked at photos and looked up phone numbers. We've had lots of talk about the weather, health, holidays, the Jazz and how much they love their families. We have also had lots and lots of laughter. I value the wisdom they are willing to share with me, their kind words of thanks and warm smiles. I almost feel guilty because I get so much out of our visits. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity and for the wonderful friends I have made through this program!
Chari Curtis, Lehi
I have enjoyed volunteering with Meals-on-Wheels for the last 18 months.
I became involved with the program by responding to a volunteer request posted in the Daily Herald. The Meals-on-Wheels program has given me an opportunity to work with seniors in our community doing something I feel is very worthwhile.
Since I have been involved with the program I have realized that it is much more than delivering a healthy, well-balanced meal to home-bound seniors. It has given me the opportunity to meet and get to know some very special people, including the seniors and the volunteers that I work with. We have the opportunity to visit with the seniors and listen to whatever they would like to talk about and just let them know we care about them. They are always very gracious and happy to see me when I deliver their meal. I can't remember one time that I have not been thanked for the time and effort I spend on their behalf. Serving the seniors in the community for one hour a week is such a small thing and the personal rewards are many.
Monica Barrus, Provo
I was introduced to delivering Meals-on-Wheels when I was a young mother with three young children living in Colorado where my husband was attending graduate school.
After hearing a friend talk about her volunteer work delivering meals and how much she loved it, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Sixteen years and three states later, I've delivered Meals-on-Wheels everywhere I've lived since.
I feel a great appreciation for the people that I deliver meals to. Some say it's me doing the service by delivering the meals, when really it is me that is served by the good people on my route. I look forward to seeing each client and hearing how their day is going. I enjoy listening to stories from an older generation that has already experienced life's lessons. I love seeing their faces light up when I bring along one of my children. I like hearing how much they love their families and how much they miss a beloved spouse that has passed on. I'm grateful to be available to change hearing aid batteries if needed or pick up the mail in the mailbox on a snowy day. I've always believed that learning about others and interacting with them gives my life more depth.
These people have added so much to my life simply by me stepping into their home for a moment each week. Who knows, later in my life I may need a meal delivered to me. Wouldn't it be great if there were someone willing to step into my life for just a moment each day?
Daphne Brown, Orem
Years ago I found myself with extra time on my hands and a desire to give back to the community.
I became a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer, delivering meals once a week to home-bound seniors. I have had some wonderful experiences in my weekly visits. Many times, I am the only human contact these seniors will have all day. They are always so grateful for a hot meal. They love to get a hug and share their life stories with me.
One of my seniors has been a prison guard at Rikers Island in New York, another was a nanny to movie stars in Hollywood, one had a pet turkey when she was a child and another one was a school teacher to a city mayor. I have grown to love and care for the seniors that I serve. I try to help with little things like putting dishes away, bringing in a garbage can or bringing the newspaper in with their meal. It is amazing what a difference an hour a week can make in a senior's life and in my life.
Vickie Johnson, Orem
The employees at Alison's Pantry have been delivering for Meals-on-Wheels for a little more than a year. We first got involved with Meals-on-Wheels after we saw a newspaper article asking for volunteers to help sub when people couldn't make their deliveries. After a few months of subbing we saw that there was an opening to deliver every Wednesday. After delivering to the wonderful people on the route you begin to get to know and love them. They are so grateful for the service.
My favorite memory is delivering to Nephi and Elna every week. They were the nicest couple I have ever met. Every time I delivered Nephi would open the door and invite me in and Elna would be on the couch with the biggest smile on her face. She was always so happy to see me and would ask me how my day was going. It turned into my favorite stop of the route because she was so kind and genuinely interested in my life. She used to do a lot of service work herself and would tell me a story every time I came over. She truly is a great example of service and she taught me a lot. I never knew that volunteering to deliver meals to elderly people could turn into such a rich experience and become delivering to elderly friends.
Nephi recently died and Elna had to be moved to a care facility so we no longer deliver to them, but I will always remember their kindness and Christlike attitude.
Joshua Kissee, Pleasant Grove