Meals on Wheels bringing holiday to seniors and homebound

Jerry Diamond packs bags of food into his Meals On Wheels carrier bag at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Turkeys beware of the Modern Maturity Center at 1121 Forrest Avenue.

Just last week, the Modern Maturity Center hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for its members where more than 1,500 pounds of turkey with all the trimmings were served.

Today, the Meals on Wheels program that is based out of the Modern Maturity Center in West Dover will double its normal production of delivering hot Thanksgiving meals to the elderly and those who are homebound, going from 200 or so everyday meals to more than 400 for the holiday.

Carolyn Fredricks, the president and CEO of the Modern Maturity Center, tipped her hat to her cooking staff and her army of volunteers for Meals on Wheels.

“We have a volunteer team and some staff that are coming in to make sure that they’ve got the food and the team is getting out,” Ms. Fredricks said. “It’s a big production to get that food out.

Bill Casey loads bags of food into the back seat of his car before delivering for Meals On Wheels on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“The people who cook it are actually paid staff. The people who pack it, drive it, deliver it, they’re all volunteers. We absolutely couldn’t do it without them.”

Meals on Wheels is an international program that delivers meals to mostly elderly or disabled homebound individuals who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals.

In Kent County, all meals are prepared in the Modern Maturity Center’s kitchen and shipped to distribution hubs throughout the county where they can be retrieved by volunteers and taken the last stretch of distance to recipients’ doorsteps.

Most of the volunteers in Kent County seemed eager to bring a holiday smile and a taste of Thanksgiving to the many homes that will be involved.

“It’s going to be a big day,” said Dover’s Mark Richardson, who is a member of the Modern Maturity Center’s staff. “It’s definitely fulfilling. I’ve noticed that the seniors and anybody that I deliver meals to they need somebody to talk to, so it’s good to get a chance to socialize with them.”

State Auditor Kathy McGuiness helps Mike DellAquila pack his Meals On Wheels bags of food for delivery on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

That’s what is so special about the Meals on Wheels program. It’s more than the food. It’s a chance to talk, check in on people and just be a friend.

“I think it’s great,” said Dover’s Robert Herpel, a volunteer driver for five years. “If it wasn’t for us, they wouldn’t have meals. It’s great to be able to spend some time with them. I also feed their dogs if they have a dog, so I make sure I have a dog biscuit ready to go.

“I’m at home and I’m retired, and I didn’t have anything to do so I heard about Meals on Wheels and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Lorraine Stigile, of Clayton, was busy packing meals for pickup and delivery on Tuesday at the Modern Maturity Center. She said it is a team effort.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling and it humbles you and helps you appreciate what you have. We are a team.”

Today, she will be on the other side of the team — making deliveries.

“This will be my first year doing that and there’s 28 meals that I have to deliver, so I’m looking forward to it because I’ve got a meal waiting for me when I get done,” Ms. Stigile said. “People have to sign up to receive a meal on Thanksgiving because many people have dinner with their families on the holiday.”

Ms. Fredricks wasn’t exactly sure why the demand on the Thanksgiving dinners doubled for today.

“The only thing I can figure is the demographics is growing and a lot of people just don’t have family around,” she said. “For people that need a hot Thanksgiving meal it has doubled this year. Normally it’s 200 and we have 400 people that are requesting the meal.”

Ms. Fredricks said they are always looking for more volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program, whether it be packers, drivers or runners.

Interested volunteers can deliver meals as of often as every day of the week, or as seldom as a few times per month. Meals are usually prepared and ready for pickup every day between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.

“It’s a job that takes about an hour and a half of your time, but it’s very rewarding,” said Ms. Fredricks. “It’s perfect for a retiree looking for something to do. We have a few husband and wife teams that go together, so one is the driver and the other is the runner. They also get reimbursed mileage so they’re not putting any wear and tear on their cars that isn’t paid for.

“It’s so important because it keeps people in their homes rather than in nursing homes. It provides a crucial continuum of care. We have people on our home delivered meals program that are 100 years old. Most elderly people want to remain in their homes, mostly because nursing homes can be very costly, but also because it’s where they are most comfortable.”

One thing is for certain, nobody at the Modern Maturity Center is complaining about having to work on a holiday.

“It’s wonderful to know that we can be something to somebody who needs that Thanksgiving meal,” Ms. Fredricks said. “It’s a great team that we have and it’s just a very fulfilling time.”

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