Since 1962 the Meals-on-Wheels program has delivered over seven million meals to older adults in Forsyth County. Senior Services is grateful for the thousands of volunteers who have given their time to not only deliver nutritious meals but also share meaningful moments of human connection with older people who need them. Meals-on-Wheels volunteers are a diverse group of people, representing practically every ethnic, religious, and economic background that can be found in our community. Some volunteer for short periods, others intermittently, and a very large group have volunteered long-term, with their service spanning decades or more! It’s not uncommon for some of our volunteers to later find themselves in need of the service that they poured so much into.
William is one of those people. Now, age 87 and widowed for a decade, he waits for the knock at his door to announce the arrival of a hot meal, a warm smile, and a chance to interact with a kind-hearted Meals-on-Wheels volunteer. It does not escape William that only a few years ago the roles were reversed, and people were waiting for him to knock on their door. Things were different for him then and he looks back on his time as a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer with great fondness. He feels good about the contribution he made to the program—but what he loved most about it was that he got to do it with his favorite person in the world—his wife, Barbara.
William met Barbara in 7th grade while he was a star basketball player. He chuckled when he recalled that she didn’t seem overly impressed with his skills on the court, “She teased me about learning how to speak properly. So, I asked her to teach me how to.” That was the start of a loving relationship that continued for almost 58 years until Barbara’s death in 2012. The couple dated throughout high school as William led his team to several state basketball championships, married before he began a storied college basketball career, and continued to build a strong union after William was drafted into the military. Once he left the service William and his bride went to work for the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company. He concluded a 35-year career as a foreman after entering the company as a sweeper.
The couple knew they had much more to give this community after retirement and decided to share with others in need of support by delivering Meals-on-Wheels. They signed on to deliver as part of the St. Paul’s United Methodist Church group. They each took on a separate route and dove into the opportunity to give back to the community they had spent most of their lives in. Although they loved it, there was something missing. It didn’t take long to realize that the something was each other. It didn’t feel right to be doing something so important without the other, so they changed their schedules and began to deliver as a team. William and Barbara volunteered for a little over 20 years. William says, “It gave me something to look forward to, I enjoyed it. and it gave me something to do and something to give back”. William looked forward to volunteering and spending time with his wife. When asked if he had a favorite memory volunteering with Barbara he said, “I don’t have a favorite memory, all I have are good memories; because everything we did, we did it together.”
Over the last year, William’s health started to decline and moving around became a bit challenging. During a doctor’s visit, his physician asked him about his meals, and William responded, “I get by but I’m no cook. I can’t make myself a full meal.” Upon hearing that, his doctor suggested the Meals-on-Wheels program and William said he knew about it because he used to deliver meals. That conversation got the ball rolling and the transition onto the program as a participant proved a smooth one. He started receiving meals in February of 2023. He credits the Meals-on-Wheels with helping him remain in his home and relieving the worry about having a nutritious meal each weekday. “Meals-on-Wheels has been a blessing to me. It helps me have a meal to eat when I need it.”
Participating in the program provides another benefit to William – he likes to talk with the volunteers that deliver his meals just like he did with the participants when he was a volunteer himself. He knows what it is like being a volunteer—the satisfaction and positive feelings sharing time like that brings because he did it for so long. As William’s journey comes full circle, he now more fully understands the warmth and joy that Meals-on-Wheels participants felt when he knocked on their door.
William is proof-positive that you never know who you may find on the other side of the door.