Spotlight: Volunteering is a Family Affair

Dad and Daughter Bond Over Helping Others

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 Delivering Meals-on-Wheels provides many rich feelings to volunteers. They can be greatly magnified when the experience is shared with a loved one. Andrew Hano is very familiar with the positive sentiments delivering meals brings because he’s been fortunate to experience them firsthand—with his daughter. Andrew first volunteered to deliver Meals-on-Wheels in 2004 because he wanted a service opportunity that he could perform with his then three-year-old daughter, Abigail. He found Meals-on-Wheels to be a great fit. Back then, he was a stay-at-home dad and wanted not only to help others but to personally grow closer to the community. “Delivering meals provided me, Abigail, and later my son, a broader view of Winston-Salem. We visited parts of the city that we would, otherwise, never have known existed. We met and developed a rapport with a variety of people, each with such interesting stories.” Providing an experience that would shape his children in positive ways was also a major motivation. “I wanted an experience that would empower Abigail and her brother. Kids learn by doing. A child, even age 3, is able to do Meals-on-Wheels. She carried the meal. She knocked on the door. She said hello.”

Andrew’s foresight seems to have paid off. Today, Abigail is a sophomore at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, studying Global Health and Biology with a minor in Spanish as she prepares for a future career helping people. “The early experiences I had volunteering definitely have had an impact on the person I am today and the passion I have for equitable distribution of opportunity. My current major focuses on the allocation of resources, specifically those that have to do with healthcare, but also takes into account the factors that may be affecting one’s health that are out of their control like race, environment, and socioeconomic status.” Abigail continues to give back to the community, “In addition, I have enjoyed being involved with a number of nonprofit organizations. I would not have strived to be a part of all these incredible opportunities if I was not exposed to service and the importance of getting to know the entirety of my community at such a young age.”

Andrew says that relationship building is one of the best parts of the volunteer job. Even when he and his children delivered once a month, over a period of months and in fact, years they got to know the participants and looked forward to checking in and sharing the latest. “I had a participant–(pre-pandemic who would not let me go until she gave me a hug. Best part of my day!”

The memories of volunteering as a child continue to remain with and inspire Abigail. “We always did the same route, so I was able to get to know the seniors at each house. There was one apartment that I loved delivering to. The woman was so kind to me and seemed to be completely invested in my life. She always showed her gratitude by welcoming us into her home.” Those experiences shaped how she views volunteering today. She said, “I think it is greatly important for every child to have the opportunity to volunteer as the exposure to difficulties faced by those in a community can have a lasting impact on that child as they grow up and begin to form their personal values.”

Seeing the impact volunteering had on his children gives Andrew a sense of pride. he’s quick to note that both of his children continue to relate well with older adults and easily take on service opportunities. He added, “Abigail, in particular, is considering careers in public health. I know that there are many experiences that have led her to this point. Volunteering at a young age, and continuing to do so over time, instilled service in her as part of their identity.”

Although being a fulltime, out of state college student prevents her from joining her dad on Meals-on-Wheels routes often, she loves to jump in when she’s home from school. “It is interesting to deliver meals now that I have so many more experiences under my belt along with more knowledge of our community and the world as a whole. There are moments where I am deeply struck by what we are doing because I have such a better understanding of the work and how important these deliveries are.” She says that she didn’t grasp the vast differences in the types of problems people who live in her community face.  “As I continued to delve into my passion for service, I was soon exposed to the numerous obstacles any given community member may face. Delivering meals now, though, further confirms my passion for public service and, specifically, the factors within a community that are out of an individual’s control but could still be affecting their health.”

Andrew feels similarly, “I feel that in order to build a strong community we each need to do our part to give back to the community. Meals-on-Wheels is one of the ways I choose to give back. Also, while delivering meals, I witness the importance of the job directly when a participant answers the door, and I am able to give them a hot meal.”

Abigail expressed pride in her father, as well. “As I got older and understood the importance of volunteering in one’s community, it was clear to me that my father had introduced me to something that would shape my values, ways of thought, studies, and future work. His care for others is one of the qualities that I most hope others may see in me one day. I am endlessly proud to be able to tell others of the work my dad does because, to me, it is one the coolest things one can commit to.”

Andrew loves having the opportunity to deliver with his daughter during her school breaks. In a way, it brings their Meals-on-Wheels journey full circle. “I valued the time we spent together when she was a preschooler and I value the time now. It is also nice that she can drive!”

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