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Meals on Wheels: 'Neighbors Helping Neighbors'

September 8th, 2015 10:30 am by Susan Kendrick Lauhoff

Meals on Wheels: 'Neighbors Helping Neighbors'

Often, when the nest becomes empty and/or retirement occurs, the opportunity to volunteer within the community is more realistic.

According to 2015 Meals on Wheels (MOW) board president, Peter Raber of Aldebaran Financial Inc., “we need more volunteers. Though we have 300-350 in this area, we do lose those to aging out, moving, or health problems.”

MOW is affiliated with the non-profit United Way of Greater Kingsport, Inc. who, according to Raber, funds 85-90 percent of the project that serves about 60,000 free meals to recipients each year. He guesstimates that during his six years of serving on the board, MOW of Greater Kingsport has spent $882,000 for citizens in need of a home-cooked meal.

That, however, is not the case across the country where many must pay for the service to compensate the cooks and drivers due to the lack of volunteers. This part of Northeast Tennessee proves that it is truly a “Volunteer State!”

Planned nutritious meals that cost about $2.45 each are cooked daily Monday through Friday, except July 4, in Kingsport within Waverly Road Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church. Three to four cooks meet in each church at 8:30 a.m. to prepare the roughly 245 meals. Drivers pick up to deliver the 14 routes that take about an hour to complete by noon. Those drivers frequently team up with another as one drives and the other takes the meal to the door. Volunteers do not enter the residence.

Clearly, many of the recipients would not have a nutritious meal each day if Meals on Wheels did not deliver to them.

There are many ways to participate with this rewarding volunteer opportunity and “shifts” can be creative. If you or your organization, office, neighborhood or church would be willing to volunteer once a month as a cook or driver, the impact of serving one who cannot take care of themselves would be very satisfying as each participant in the program appreciates all the efforts of the volunteers.

Raber offered the most tell-tale observation.

“Joining an organization in this volunteer effort allows people to stay in their homes longer and have a better quality of life,” Raber said. And, he further mentions that those who do volunteer are part of a “quality organization run by people who really care and you never know when you are going to need a meal.”

Volunteer Teresa Estepp who finds the opportunity “rewarding and a joy,” shared her reason for serving.

“I am blessed and thankful that I am able to help those who may not be able to prepare a nourishing meal for themselves by simply volunteering a few hours a month. MOW is an amazing organization which operates so smoothly considering the number of volunteers involved, the number of hours volunteered and the number of people served,” she said.

Those who wish to be considered for receiving Meals on Wheels services should follow the process if they are unable to cook for themselves and are approved by a doctor. Once they submit their application, a parish nurse visits the home.

All volunteers receive the internal Meals on Wheels newsletter. Training for either job is minimal and no experience is necessary. Even I was able to fill in and help this well-tuned program without previous experience. Drivers are required to have a valid driver’s license.

To sign up, receive a brochure or learn more about helping your community through volunteering for Meals on Wheels, please contact Brenda Overbey at United Way at 423-247-4511, boverbey@uwaykpt.org or write Meals on Wheels of Kingsport , Inc., 301 Louis Street, Suite 201, Kingsport, TN 37660. 

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