A Sweet Volunteer Story

When Leann shared this latest client story with our staff over lunch, I immediately knew this story needed to be shared on our blog. What a great reminder to all of us just how important Meals For The Elderly is to those who need our services:

August 2, 2011-

Today a man called about one of our volunteers.  As usual, Leann fielded the call after Theda, one of our amazing volunteers who answers our phones, greeted him and discovered the caller was a client with a volunteer concern.

Unsure as to why he had taken the time to phone us, Leann took the call fearing the worst. She looked up the client to determine the route he was on and who had taken him his food that day. (From time to time, clients are unsettled by the necessary changes from a regular driver to a new, substitute, or emergency driver, especially when their regular driver was near and dear to them.) This client had been faithfully served by a regular volunteer who had recently had a stroke, and substitute drivers were now being used to cover this route during the volunteer’s recovery.

Well prepared for whatever might come, Leann cheerfully greeted the client ready for anything. She asked the client what had happened with his volunteer that day, fearing he was upset by the change.

“I’m not calling to complain,” he was quick to say. “I just want to tell you that the new volunteer you sent today… she hugged me.”

A feeling of relief washed over Leann, as hugging is a common currency for our loving volunteers, staff, and our clients.  He then shared with Leann something shocking:

“That’s the first hug I have had since 2005.”

Leann had scarcely the time to react before he went on to ask Leann to get in touch with this substitute driver.

“I want you to call her and thank her.”

For him, that hug met a deep void in his life– a need for human contact. It was a need that, despite the kind words and personal attention given to him and to each client receiving meals every weekday, had somehow gone unmet for an agonizingly long time.

So, Leann did what he asked. With tears in her eyes, she shared the story with the woman who gave a lonely, homebound senior his first hug in 6 years. The driver was one of the many who come into contact with our organization through their church. She had made it a point during her route that day to hug everyone she delivered to, having no idea the dramatic impact it would have.

Thank you for all that you do for Meals For The Elderly recipients.  You have no idea how much you impact your elderly homebound neighbors when you take a moment to be a part of their lives. Thank you also to those churches who coordinate their members to volunteer and do routes on a regular basis, without which we would be hard-pressed to complete all 37 routes every day, without fail.

If your church would like to start serving, or if you personally would like to become a regular driver, or a much needed substitute or emergency driver, please call Leann today at 655-9200 or fill out an application on our website.

We truly appreciate everyone who helps ensure all our local seniors are fed, in every sense of the word.

We all need to remember what Aesop said: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”



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Birthday Magic

photo3028by Jim Bush, Meals For The Elderly Volunteer

I am  chaplain at the San Angelo State Supported Living Center, and sponsor for the Aktion Club, an outreach of the San Angelo West Kiwanis Club to those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Aktion Club delivers a Meals For The Elderly route each week on Thursday morning. Every Thursday I travel with three members of the club from our campus to the Meals For The Elderly office and then to our route. 

On this particular morning, we noticed that there was a birthday gift for us to take on our route and a note on our route sheet that one of our clients was celebrating her birthday that day. We collected our food for delivery and the birthday gift, and we planned to make that delivery first.  The club members expressed a desire to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the lady and we practiced the song all the way there.

After arriving at the subsidized housing unit that contains our whole route, we parked the van, decided who would carry the meal, decided who would carry the gift, and practiced singing ‘Happy Birthday’ one more time.

When we got to the door, the individuals who were with me were so excited the client was coming to the door that they could hardly contain themselves.  As soon as the client opened the door, without waiting for her to open her storm door, they burst into singing the Birthday song.  Finishing up with a flourish and with smiles from ear-to-ear, they handed her the birthday gift and her meal.

She received both with tears in her eyes and said, “you are the only ones who will say that to me all day, and it means so much.” By that time, I was in tears, as were my guys. She was wished happy birthday four more times before we walked away.

Each year since that occasion, the same three guys who were with me that day start asking in May: Is it her birthday yet? Can I go with you when it is?

These individuals I serve as chaplain don’t get a bunch of opportunities to give back to the community, but they sure enjoy delivering meals once a week. So do I!  As a matter of fact, I worked with the volunteer coordinator at Meals for the Elderly, and I deliver the same route on Friday that the Aktion club delivers on Thursday.

What a blessing it is to serve others. I hope you’ll join me!

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Blue Eyes and Meal Delivery

by Abbie Willis, Meals For The Elderly Volunteer

When we first began delivering meals to the elderly gentleman on a quiet, well-manicured street, he was already at least eighty.  His demeanor did not mirror his age.  Each week, on the day we delivered his meal, he was already up and about and answered the doorbell summons without delay.  He was very courteous, and when he smiled, his clear blue eyes had a deep twinkle.  At times, he would invite us in for various reasons:  to admire his stamp collection, to show off his deceased wife´s knick-knacks, or just to test the working condition of the doorbell.

On one occasion, he relayed that his daughter was coming to visit.  It was obvious that he was looking forward to her visit.  As an afterthought, he pulled out a picture of the two of them.  I fully expected a picture of a grown woman.  What a pleasant surprise to see a young man, sitting on his haunches, with a little girl with blonde curls in a wispy, white organdy dress leaning against his chest, his arms lightly holding her in.  The man in the picture was lean and muscular.  He wore khakis with a snug white t-shirt.  He had slightly wavy blonde hair and squinting into the sun was the young version of those clear blue eyes we were privileged to see every Tuesday.

In the years to come, his recall would become hazy.  His response to the doorbell was slower.  The day came when his name was no longer on our route sheet.  The family had decided assisted living was necessary for his well-being.  Even now, when we drive by that street, I lift up a prayer of thanksgiving for his life and hope he is well.

Every time one of our clients chooses to share a part of their life, we accept it for what it is:  a gift of trust.  Each one of them has a story to tell.  We may bring them a meal for their physical needs.  They impart to us a life lesson by demonstrating the strength and grace that is required to live out the golden years of their life.

Abbie Willis is a long-time volunteer of Meals For The Elderly. She shared a favorite memory of her time volunteering with Meals For The Elderly in honor of #NationalVolunteerMonth! If you have a story to share, email programs@mealsfortheelderly.org! Your story could be our next feature!

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Standard Times Front Page Headline about Our Driver Needs!

Meals For Elderly needs a big lift

Volunteer drivers sought to deliver food

By Matthew Waller

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Pete Espinosa walks out with a cane in hand when he meets the Meals For The Elderly volunteer who delivers his hot lunch.

He talks about the stack of Meals For The Elderly containers on his microwave, how he first started with the program and how he began living on Social Security.

“I like to get visitors,” said Espinosa, who lives alone. “It gets lonely.”

Loneliness and hunger are two elements in the life of many elderly homebound people in San Angelo that Meals For The Elderly helps keep at bay, but the organization faces a daunting void in its volunteer troops and has put out an emergency request for help.

At least 35 routes need drivers from Sept. 7 through Sept. 16, Meals For The Elderly staff said.

“We have a pretty large gap,” said Becca Lambert, the marketing and event director of Meals For The Elderly.

The need arose after a church wasn’t able to provide as much volunteer assistance as it had in the past. The church still will provide volunteers for the last two weeks in September, Lambert said.

“The church has been with us since the beginning,” Lambert said. “Everybody is struggling these days. They just don’t have the manpower to do it. They’re trying to do their best for us.”

Meals For The Elderly staff declined to name the church that has been unable to muster volunteers.

Meals For The Elderly is in a rare situation with the shortage of meal providers, Lambert said. Generally, the summer months present more need, and the need decreases in the fall as people return to normal schedules, she said.

“This is probably something that happens once or twice a year,” Lambert said. “We’re always needing drivers, but our supporters can typically help us fill those gaps.”

Substitute drivers are generally on hand when there is a daily scheduling conflict, she said.

Each route takes about an hour and a half to complete, and volunteers would be asked to show up between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on each day they have a route.

Anyone interested in helping can contact Meals For The Elderly at 325-655-9200.

Volunteer drivers provide their own vehicles and gasoline, Lambert said, and they typically sign up for one or two routes. They would not need to drive for an entire week, Lambert said.

“You get a lot more from volunteering than even the client,” Lambert said. “One gentleman says, ‘Oh, don’t leave.’ They’ll say, ‘You’re the only person I saw today.’ It’s a huge sense of gratification that you’ve impacted someone’s life.”

Lois Calvert, a volunteer and retiree, agreed that the experience of volunteering is largely about investing in the person.

“It isn’t just the food,” Calvert said.

Lois Calvert and her husband, Jim Calvert, have been filling in for volunteers who are away, she said.

Meals For The Elderly is a nonprofit organization that delivers about 600 meals per day at the cost of about $3 a meal, a cost covered by the organization.

The organization has gone without government funding since 1974. Meals For The Elderly uses about 2,100 volunteers, Lambert said.

Jim Calvert said the bottom line is service to people in need.

“These people really need our help and we’re helping them, and that is the key,” he said.

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Grant Gives New Oven & Inspiration

Thanks to MOWAA’s Walmart Impact Grant…….
Today, a new oven is being installed to aid Meals
For The Elderly’s kitchen staff in daily meal prep.
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Things to Consider for the Holiday Season

For most nonprofit organizations, and for us as well, the kindness and support of a community is often best demonstrated during the holiday season.  Although there are thousands of San Angeloans and citizens throughout the Concho Valley who generously give of their time, money, and talents to help charities throughout the year, there is just something about the fall and winter holidays that encourage us all to thoughtfully consider the abundant blessings in our lives and open our hearts to our friends and neighbors who might need a helping hand.

The board and staff of Meals For The Elderly are very thankful for the continuing generosity toward our mission of nourishing our homebound elderly neighbors.  Despite a 17.4% increase in the cost of food, your support has enabled us to meet the needs of our isolated, elderly clients so far this year and has allowed us to provide 19% more meals this year than at this point last year.

However, the holiday season is now upon us.  As you experience the upcoming holiday seasons of bounty in the land of plenty, please continue to remember those for whom the holiday season is neither bountiful nor plentiful.  The autumn and winter seasons, for many of us, evoke sensations of warmth and gratitude as we share meals and time with our families and friends.  But for a homebound, elderly individual unable to leave her home, autumn and winter can feel lonely, cold, and empty.  She needs help from her community members to be reminded that we have not forgotten her and care about her well-being, demonstrated through the sustenance and friendship made possible by your support.

This fall, we will be doing a number of things to ensure that our homebound clients experience the warmth of the holidays as everyone is meant to – but we will need your help.  From mid-November to mid-December, Sunset Mall will be hosting a holiday tree to collect Christmas gifts for our clients, entitled “Seniors Still Believe.”  As you are purchasing gifts for friends and family this fall, please consider picking an ornament from our “Seniors Still Believe” tree and providing a gift for an elderly client who may not have friends or family nearby with whom to share Christmas.  Items needed will vary depending on each client, but may include things like socks, blankets, and space heaters.  Help us bring a little joy to the homes of our homebound neighbors this holiday.

We will also be distributing our annual Emergency Meal Box to each of our 600 clients over the next few weeks.  Each box (a shoe box) includes shelf stable food items for approximately two days worth of food.  All boxes are decorated by community members and are delivered to clients during the fall so that in the event of inclement weather prohibiting meal delivery, each client will still have some food on hand until we can deliver again.  The Emergency Meal Boxes are delivered separately from normal noon lunches, enabling volunteers who can’t typically volunteer during the day to help deliver after hours as long as there is daylight.  If you would like to help us with this project, please call Leann, our Volunteer Director at 655-9200.

If you are overcome by holiday spirit and would like to give thanks for the blessings in life, please consider signing up to volunteer a few times this holiday season or making a donation.  Volunteers are always needed, as more routes are currently being added to accommodate the increasing number of clients we are serving.  We particularly need drivers to deliver meals between 10:30am – 12pm, but can always use help in the office and the kitchen as well.  Whether you want to volunteer individually or with a group, we would love to work out a rewarding experience that warms your heart.

If you would like to make a donation this fall to help with our mission, please remember that gifts can be given in honor or memory of someone.  By making a gift in someone’s honor or memory, you are sending warm feelings and love to not only our elderly clients, but to your friends and family as well.  When shopping for that hard-to-buy-for friend or family member, remember that honorariums always fit the person and your budget.

A number of our clients depend completely on Meals For The Elderly for nourishment, and our meals are the only food they receive.  We are vigilant in reducing expenses and operating efficiently to ensure that our clients’ needs will continue to be met.  We know the economic climate is still tough this year – for us and for our loyal supporters.  However, in order to keep up with the demand this holiday season, we are relying on your continued support.

Every meal we send out costs under $3 to make – and that includes food prices, packaging, equipment, employment, and utility costs.  We are able to maintain that meal cost without being a government or United Way agency, which allows us to provide the most we possibly can to our elderly neighbors.  That means for every $15 donation we receive, we can provide hot lunches for one elderly client for an entire week.  For the price of one meal at a restaurant, someone could eat for a week.

Please remember those who are too frail, ill, and disabled to leave their homes this holiday season.  We wish you all health and happiness this holiday season.  If you have any questions or would just like to learn more about Meals For The Elderly, please feel free to call us at 655-9200 or visit our website at http://www.MealsForTheElderly.org.

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Hunger Action Month

September is Hunger Action Month!  Meals For The Elderly, along with our amazing volunteers, are doing our part every weekday to take action against senior hunger in our community.

Currently, more than 500 homebound elderly neighbors receive hot lunches from our program each weekday.  Along with the hot lunches, our program sends caring volunteers to our clients’ doorsteps each weekday to make sure they are doing well and to see if they need anything else that we can help with.

Our clients and their families receive peace of mind in knowing that there will be someone to check on them each day.  Many of our clients tell us they enjoy the friendly visits from the volunteers as much as they do the nutritious meals.  For those who are truly homebound, our volunteers may be the only people the clients see all day.  Our volunteers not only deliver life-sustaining food, but smiles and friendship as well.

It is our goal to enable the elderly to live independently, in their own homes, for as long as possible. Our clients are typically over sixty years of age, live alone, and are unable to prepare their own meals.

Meals For The Elderly is a private, non-profit charitable organization devoted to serving the homebound elderly of San Angelo, Texas and surrounding areas with one hot, nutritious, home-delivered meal each weekday while also ensuring their individual well-being through personal contact.

In addition to the normal weekday meal, we send a sack lunch on Friday of each week to assist the clients in getting through the weekend and we send frozen breakfast items for the week each Monday. Frozen lunches are also provided to clients who rely solely on Meals For The Elderly for their meals.

Volunteer opportunities are available for those interested in taking action to combat hunger.  Our clients are divided into 33 routes throughout the city, and at least 200 volunteers are utilized each week.  Drivers are asked to pick up meals from the Meals For The Elderly office around 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and nearly all meals are delivered by noon each weekday.  For more information on what you could do to help Meals For The Elderly, please visit http://www.mealsfortheelderly.org or call Meals For The Elderly at 325-655-9200.

From its beginning in 1974, Meals For The Elderly has provided meals for the homebound elderly without government funding or becoming a United Way agency.  As an independent organization, Meals For The Elderly maintains an operating cost of less than $3 per meal.  Meals For The Elderly is funded by gifts, grants, donations, and fundraisers that enable us to deliver meals to community members who might otherwise go hungry.

Our program is just one of many wonderful programs in and around San Angelo taking action against hunger.  If you are interested in becoming involved with this mission, you could volunteer with our program, or check with another program, such as Wesley Daily Bread Soup Kitchen or the Concho Valley Regional Food Bank.  Because San Angelo is such a caring community, we all work together to ensure that our neighbors and fellow citizens do not go hungry.

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First Annual Fantastic Fan Fair

Right now, Meals For The Elderly is having a fan drive – our first annual Fantastic Fan Fair!  We are collecting box and oscillating fans from community members to distribute to our homebound elderly clients.  This summer has been a scorcher, and many of our clients can’t afford to run their air conditioner (if they have an air conditioner at all).  Imagine how hot it gets in west central Texas without any cool air blowing!

We are asking community members and supporters to donate a fan, or $15 for the purchase of one, during this fan drive. Officially the fan drive ends on July 12 so that we will have time to deliver fans to our clients while summer is still in full swing.

The first annual Fantastic Fan Fair is hosted by Trisun Healthcare – Meadow Creek & Regency House and Girling Healthcare to benefit clients of Meals For The Elderly.

A donation of fans or money toward the purchase of a fan is welcomed at any of these four locations:
– Meals For The Elderly
– Meadow Creek Nursing Center
– Regency House
– Girling Health Care

Each donation of a fan or $15 will get one entry to win a door prize! Trisun Healthcare (the parent company of Regency House and Meadow Creek) has generously donated tickets to Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, Texas as a prize incentive for fan donors.

Help your homebound elderly neighbors stay cool and safe in this triple digit heat!  For more information, contact Tiffani Paige at the Meals For The Elderly office at 655-9200 or email her at programs@mealsfortheelderly.org .

To make a monetary donation toward the purchase of fans for this project, follow this link:


and be sure to note that the donation is for fans in the comment box.

Thanks for your support!

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