Delivering Meals and Friendship

By Jessica Riel, Media & Communications Director, and Lisa Middents, Development Manager, LifePath

Joan Wilson, 79, lives in Shelburne, where she returned after living with her daughter on Martha’s Vineyard. Like many older people, Joan has fears. She can’t help but worry about trees falling on her house or losing power in the winter.

Volunteer Meals on Wheels driver Alan Coutinho (right) delivers a hot meal to Joan Wilson at her home in Shelburne.Thanks to the Meals on Wheels program at LifePath (formerly Franklin County Home Care), Joan has the security that comes from a daily hot nutritious meal and wellness check. For over a year, volunteer driver Alan Coutinho has been checking in on her with a hot, noontime meal five days a week.

(Photo: Volunteer Meals on Wheels driver Alan Coutinho (right) delivers a hot meal to Joan Wilson at her home in Shelburne.)

Constance “Connie” Rice hates depending on someone else for rides. She is blind in one eye and had to stop driving last year. When asked why she likes getting Meals on Wheels, Connie says, “It’s nice to feel independent. It’s made my life easier. I eat supper because of Meals on Wheels.” Meals on Wheels helps Connie stay living in the house she and her husband bought in 1946. “I raised three kids here.” When the weather is good, Connie often waits for Alan, who also delvers meals to Connie, out on her back porch. Bright goldfinches swoop around her bird-feeder, and her big yellow cat is transfixed. “I see deer out here a lot.”

Alan has been Connie’s Meals on Wheels driver for over ten years. Today, he asks her, “Are you always this feisty?” as he hands her a hot meal of roast pork with cranberry orange glaze, mashed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, a whole wheat dinner roll, and some almond cookies for dessert. Alan doesn’t forget Connie’s furry companion. He digs into a bag of cat treats he brought from his car and tosses one in the air. Connie’s big orange tabby pounces as the treat lands and eats it right up. 

Besides volunteering to deliver meals and check on his clients five days a week, Alan is a prize winning fundraiser at the annual Meals on Wheels Walkathon and captain of Walk Team First Congregational Church of Shelburne. 

Across the nation, according to a report by Mass Home Care, over half of all elders are at risk for malnutrition, and one of the possible causes of malnutrition is the inability to shop for food or cook and feed oneself. Here in Franklin County and the North Quabbin, over a quarter of elders who receive Meals on Wheels from LifePath say they would not have enough food in their home if it weren’t for their home-delivered meals, and 70% say it is their main meal of the day. With over a third of these individuals living alone, it’s no wonder that 80% say that seeing their driver makes them feel less lonely. Four out of five say that the meals help them to live independently, and even more say that the meals help them feel better. 

Across the country, many Meals on Wheels programs have waiting lists of six months or longer. At LifePath, when someone qualifies for help through the Meals on Wheels program, the organization always says, “Yes!” and sets them up with meals right away. Even though the program operates with a deficit of $150,000 annually, through donations to the program, especially for the annual Meals on Wheels Walkathon, generous supporters have helped to cut that amount in half over the past five years and ensure that the local Meals on Wheels program can continue saying, “Yes, we’re here to help.”

You can join Alan in making sure elders like Joan and Connie can continue to receive a daily hot meal and wellness check. Make a gift to Meals on Wheels online at LifePathMA.org or contact: Lisa Middents, Development Coordinator, lmiddents@LifePathMA.org or 413-773-5555 ext. 2225.

To donate to LifePath, follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket, or use the code 111946 on your paper pledge form.

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