“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia
Alan found this quote to be true after watching his mother, Ethel, participate in the Senior Services Meals-on-Wheels program for almost 11 years. He witnessed how she looked forward to the kind words from volunteers, felt the reassurance that came with knowing someone with a listening ear checked in on her, and was comforted that she experienced a simple act of caring in the form of a hot, nutritious meal each weekday.
So, when it came time to plan for retirement, Alan knew that he wanted to use his newly discovered “spare” time to make a difference in the lives of others. Reflecting on his mother’s experience helped him decide where he could make his impact, “Meals-on-Wheels had been on my radar before but when mom started receiving meals, that solidified it for me.”
Born in Wales in 1916, Ethel grew up to become a nurse in London where she met her husband Joe and started their family. An opportunity for work brought Ethel, Joe, and their three children to Winston-Salem in 1957 where Ethel and Alan continue to live to this day. After a lifetime of providing care to others, in 2011 she became a person in need of a little extra support herself, as she could no longer safely leave her house alone or prepare meals. This is where Meals-on-Wheels stepped in, providing Ethel with the nutritional support, moments of connection, and safety checks that helped her continue living in her home. Not only did the volunteers deliver hot meals but also “a smile, a kind word, and a listening ear,” mirroring the care she gave so freely throughout her lifetime.
It is easy to see where Alan’s heart for giving comes from.
After retiring in 2015, Alan put his plan to “give back” in motion by volunteering for Meals-on-Wheels. He quickly began forming bonds and friendships with the participants on his route much like those he saw grow between volunteers and his mother. As someone who already enjoys driving and meeting people, it was easy to start adding more routes to his volunteer schedule. He frequently offers to fill in on routes for other volunteers when needed, and also delivers frozen meals to seniors waiting to start service or who live just out of reach of a hot route. “My favorite part is learning about the people to who I have the privilege to deliver. I know who needs me to wait a bit longer for them to get to the door, who wants me to knock a bit louder, and who needs me to knock a bit quieter,” Alan said, chuckling, “I’m glad to be able to check in to make sure everything is ok.”
Alan has found his “why.” It’s to spread the same type of kindness so freely given to his mother. At 106, Ethel now lives with Alan and according to him, “these days she may not remember receiving the meals, but I do. I knew she was taken care of.”
There are many seniors, like Ethel, who are in need of nutritional support and families who want to know that their parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other older loved one is taken care of and that someone is there to check in on them. Alan reflected that, “it’s hard to imagine anything more valuable than providing someone with the gift of food. [It] is one of our most fundamental needs.” By volunteering for Meals-on-Wheels, Alan has been able to provide that gift while also honoring his mother.
What is your “why?” If you are looking for a way to give back and make an impact in the lives of local older adults, Meals-on-Wheels is a great place to start. Reach out to Tyler Smith, volunteer and community relations coordinator, to learn more at 336-721-6961 or email@example.com.