Person to Person - Impact: Do You Want to be a Mini Hero?

In a January column, I addressed heroes in our towns and around the world. I realize there are many types of people that can be considered heroic but I only listed a few: men and women in our military, firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, medics and everyday civilians who rush to others’ care in the case of an emergency. At my age, I will never be identified in any of the above groups (except possibly rushing to help somebody in an emergency).

But YOU can qualify as a mini-hero as well as doing something enjoyable for your neighbors in the Honey Brook and Elverson areas! Do I have your attention yet? Have I strung you along enough yet? Well, let me tell you my story.

Eight years ago, I was approached by a friend who found out that I liked to play on the computer. I am certainly no wizard; however, I do like to write and do simple tasks on MS Excel. He asked me if I would be willing to volunteer to be the treasurer for the Honey Brook Chapter of Meals on Wheels (MOW). I said that I would and was treasurer for five years. This involved getting to know the MOW clients in our Chapter and sending them monthly notices requesting donations to cover the cost of their meals for the month. Before long, I had made my own form to send them and there was always room at the bottom of the form to write individual notes to our clients. Family photos were exchanged with some clients and I enjoyed keeping track of the health of family members. While treasurer, I ran a contest at Christmastime to see who could write the best Christmas tradition of yesteryear. I paid for a certain number of meals for the winner.

A year or two into being the treasurer, I was asked if I would like to deliver meals – not as a regular (delivering meals on a route once a week) but as a substitute when the regular driver could not deliver. Oh boy, it was easy to sit behind my desk and talk via phone with or send emails to clients, but now we’re stretching it to have to talk with them face to face when delivering meals. AND, I hear a doubting Thomas say, “Oh, I don’t want to be that involved with people.” Guess what? My wife, Barb, says I turned from a rather shy person to a talker and she’s not quite sure if she can forgive Meals on Wheels!

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Kidding aside, I quickly found out how the clients would like to interact with me. There have been several clients over the years that seem to relish just talking to you for a couple of minutes. There is one, at the end of a route that I average 35 minutes with and have taken my wife and one of our grandkids to visit. Another, I have taken out for a bite to eat. Others I have arranged to have a series of lunches with to talk about their lives for an article in the Tri County Record. Many other clients just say hello and I give them the meal for the day and a pleasant smile along with a bit of small talk.

Just in case you are catching a little of the fun I have been having, let me tell you a little more about MOW. Meals are picked up at Tel Hai Retirement Community in Honey Brook around 11:15 a.m. Lunches are delivered each weekday, except Thanksgiving and Christmas and cancellations by the county office because of dangerous weather (they are very concerned about the safety of MOW drivers). The Honey Brook Chapter delivers an average of 5,000 meals a year to homebound residents in the Honey Brook area. The organization delivered nearly 86,000 meals to homebound residents across the entire County.

A driver usually delivers 5 to 10 meals per trip. The meal usually consists of a hot meal (entrée and two vegetables) and a brown paper bag with bread, butter, milk/juice and a cup of fruit or coleslaw, etc. Many drivers have been volunteering for years and years. Generally, to learn the route, you accompany a regular driver (if you are lucky, it may even be me - sorry). All it takes to feel comfortable with the directions is one or two rides with someone familiar with the route and a GPS or a cheat sheet you can run from MapQuest.

So, what’s the reason for this column? The Route B group that delivers around Elverson has 8 clients on the waiting list. Many of them live in Hopewell Manor. If we could get a driver to pick up meals for Hopewell Manor then all of these clients could be accommodated.

If 10 volunteers signed up, the most anyone would drive is twice a month. Even if we got 5 new volunteers, we could possibly deliver meals every other day.

I hope I have won many over about volunteering for this wonderful organization. Now, one can’t appoint one’s self as a mini-hero as I was discussing earlier (so I’m not blowing my own horn). But another person can give you that title. I hope that you take advantage of this opportunity to help your fellow neighbors. If so, I will accept you into my “mini-hero” club.

For more information, please consult the MOW Website at www.mowcc.org or contact Jeani Purcell, Meals on Wheels of Chester County, at 610-430-8500.

Jeff Hall, Honey Brook, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.