Big hearts, open ears needed for Meals on Wheels

Barbara Hootman

A volunteer delivering a hot, nutritious meal makes a difference between some people eating or not.

Meals on Wheels, an outreach program of the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry in Black Mountain, delivers meals to homebound people, many of them seniors, who cannot prepare meals for themselves. It currently needs volunteers to deliver meals in the Black Mountain-Swannanoa area.

Shirley Padgett at Blue Ridge Apartments has received Meals on Wheels for about a month. She said it is a godsend.

“I suffer from Lupus, and it has spread to my lungs,” she said. “I can’t shop for groceries or prepare my own food. I am on oxygen full-time. The meals make a difference in the way I am able to live my life. They taste good and are well prepared.”

Local resident Scottie Cannon has volunteered with Meals on Wheels for the past 27 years.

“I started substituting for my parents, the late Morris and Katie Warren, and then I worked for Meals on Wheels in Asheville for one year as a social worker in the mid ’90s,” she said. “I just love this work. It is an easy job (that involves) pleasant people that you might not meet otherwise. (It) doesn’t take a lot of time. I challenge myself to make the people I deliver to smile.”

There are some 36 recipients receiving a hot meal daily in the Black Mountain-Swannanoa area.

“Some routes are longer than others and take more time,” Cannon said. “A volunteer should allow around an hour and a half to service a route. Right now my route has 10 recipients. I volunteer one day a week.”

Five days a week meals are delivered from the Asheville Meals on Wheels professional kitchen site to Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry for delivery.

A volunteer driver needs to enjoy meeting new people, be someone who can spare one to two hours a week or a month, and who is ready to make an impact in someone’s life - even their own.

“It’s not just about delivering food,” Cannon said. “It is about spending time interacting with the homebound people who receive it. Often, the Meals on Wheels driver may be the only person a person sees all day. I get attached to some of the people, and when they pass or stop getting the meals, I really miss them.”

Meals on Wheels is not a free food program. Each person is asked to pay $7.15 for one meal each day, but if the person cannot afford to pay, food is still delivered. Whatever a person can donate is appreciated. The mission is to provide hot, nutritious meals to the elderly homebound, helping them to remain in their own homes with dignity as they age.

To be eligible, a person must be 60 years old and considered homebound. There are no financial requirements. If a person needs to receive food for a pet, that can be arranged also. Each Meals on Wheels meal supplies one third of the daily dietary needs of an older adult. Special dietary restrictions are also considered in preparing meals. The recipient must be home when the food is delivered.

“The food is nutritious food prepared in Meals on Wheels commercial kitchen in Asheville, supervised by a registered dietitian,” Cannon said. “It is not gourmet food.”

For more about Meals on Wheels Buncombe County, call 253-5286.