MISSION MOMENTS by Shelley Flasch
Food for the Soul…Meals on Wheels is more than just lunch!
Volunteering for Meals on Wheels (MOW) is so much more than just delivering nutritious meals to homebound Kenosha residents age 60 or older. The delivery of a nutritious midday meal brings a ray of sunshine and hope to many of our citizens who would otherwise have minimal social interaction on a daily basis. The Kenosha volunteer team is made up of approximately 150 drivers serving 27 routes, Monday through Friday, to over 200 clients within Kenosha county. According to the Meals on Wheels- America website, “Social isolation is as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes per day”. Many mental health organizations have further verified that social isolation, regardless of the cause can severely impact the health of an individual. The recent pandemic, with the need for social distancing, quarantining, and avoiding public places has shed a spotlight on how the loss of interaction with other humans can have a negative impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing. MOW here in Kenosha continued to provide safe, daily deliveries without missing a day during this pandemic. They paused the volunteer program for several months, taking on the delivery charge with their own staff. Once safety guidelines were outlined and volunteers felt comfortable, they returned to duty.
De’Muria Ware, better known to all as “De”, is the Meals on Wheels Coordinator for the City of Kenosha. I visited her in her office, which reminded me of a command center keeping the volunteers, the routes and the clients managed like a well- oiled machine. De exudes love, empathy and she is a fantastic communicator. She is grateful that many of the volunteers helping prior to the covid outbreak have returned. I would say that is a great reflection on her willingness to work with everyone, no matter how much or how little one can volunteer. Most volunteers have one route per week which takes approximately an hour and half. Reach out and join the force!
I had the pleasure of sharing the MOW experience with long- time volunteer, June Ruschli on her route as she delivered a delicious crab salad meal to the homes of 11 seniors one Thursday. June is a retired teacher who became involved with MOW to honor her sister who was dedicated to the MOW program in Pennsylvania before she passed. Since MOW is a national organization, June looked into the program here in Kenosha and has been volunteering for the past 9 years. When asked what she likes best about volunteering she enthusiastically told me that talking with the people, making those interpersonal connections with fellow citizens who might otherwise not have anyone to talk to is key for her. She demonstrated her ability to connect with her clients as we moved through our deliveries. Over the years, she has gotten to know many of her clients and supports them in the way that fits their comfort zone. Some like to chat, but some just like to take the meals without a lot of chatting. Regardless, the delivery is an opportunity to provide a “wellness check”. Volunteers are provided orientation to help them learn to watch for signs of trouble so that if help is provided early, worsened outcomes can be prevented. June explains that if a doorbell is not answered, a client seems out of sorts, unusually unkempt or confused or anything out of the ordinary, she can contact the home office and De will contact the pre-determined emergency contact. De shared with me that drivers sometimes discover that a client has experienced a fall and had no way of accessing help. Clients, caregivers, and staff find great comfort in knowing that a volunteer will be there every day. This small act of service provides one more layer of safety to ensure appropriate care can be accessed when needed. Our special volunteers give our seniors hope, nutrition, and an improved state of well-being. I’d call that food for the soul!