Meals on Wheels Ride-Along

Volunteering is one of my very favorite things. A few years ago, my friend Megan asked if I’d like to share her Meals on Wheels route. Yes! All the yeses! I know for me, it can sometimes be intimidating to sign up for something without knowing exactly what you’re getting into, so let’s take the mystery out of the Meals on Wheels experience! Maybe you’ve been Googling Kansas City/Johnson County volunteer activities but haven’t found just the right thing? Maybe you’ve been looking for a sign? This is it.

Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver hot meals and hugs.

Megan and I share every other Tuesday, delivering meals to Johnson County citizens. Our delivery area in eastern Olathe spans I-35 to Pflumm, 115th to 151st.

Meals on Wheels Delivery Day – The Pick-Up

Tuesday

10:15 a.m.
My mom, Susan, is my navigator. I pick her up at 10:15 and we swing by McDonald’s for Diet Cokes for the road before heading to our pickup location.

10:45 a.m.
We arrive at the Olathe pickup location near 119th and Ridgeview. We load the back of my SUV with three insulated bags – one for hot meals (in TV dinner-like trays), one for refrigerated side items like milk and butter, and one for refrigerated breakfast items for the next day for those recipients who’ve ordered breakfast.

Recipients can elect to receive a hot meal at lunchtime Monday through Friday.

Mom takes our route list, and we double-check our bags to be sure we have enough meals for everyone on our list. We usually have anywhere from 11 – 20 recipients on our list. It is quite a few, but our list includes a large retirement apartment complex where we have multiple recipients in one building, so we maybe only have a dozen stops versus 20.

Meals on Wheels provides a printed map and a listing of the recipients. The list does a great job of listing the addresses in a logical geographic order so we don’t waste time backtracking, but we do use Google maps instead of the printed map. Much easier.

Meals on Wheels Delivery Day – Delivering Deliciousness

10:50 a.m.
We’re off! Our first stop is my favorite – Mr. B. A sweet older man with the heart of an artist, Mr. B writes music and poetry and always asks if I’d like a Dr. Pepper from his fridge. Our job as delivery volunteers is to hand off the meal and ask our recipients how they’re doing. The purpose of Meals on Wheels is not only to provide healthy meals but also to check in on the wellness of our neighbors. If someone doesn’t answer the door or seems unwell, we report back to our volunteer coordinator so they can follow up.

I spend more time at Mr. B’s than I should, but for some (if not many) of our recipients, their Meals on Wheels delivery folks are the only people they speak to all day. He and I talk about the news and our favorite musicians. He’s promised to make me a CD of his original songs. I can’t wait to listen.

11:05 a.m.
We stop by a few individual homes before our biggest stop at Bloom Retirement Living. Bloom is a lovely three-story retirement apartment complex – clean and bright and hot as heck because older people are always cold. I use a Costco bag to tote multiple meals through the halls of Bloom.

One of my Bloom residents, Mrs. G, would shuffle to her door slowly, open the door and smile up from her bent-over, osteoporosis posture. A sweet, rosy-cheeked lady in her late 80s, Mrs. G always called me “Dear” and reminded me to “be careful on the highway” as I left her doorway. One Tuesday in October 2018, Mrs. G was not on my list. When I arrived at Bloom, I asked the receptionist about her. Mrs. G had passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 90. One hazard of delivering from Meals on Wheels is that these magnificent people find their way into your heart.

11:45 a.m.
After delivering to our Bloom friends, we’re back in the car and heading south toward several other recipient homes and apartments. If we have anyone who isn’t home, that means we have extra meals. Our goal is to empty our delivery bags, so occasionally the last few recipients on our list will get an extra meal or two to stock in their freezer.

Speaking of the freezer – Meals on Wheels recently launched a great frozen meal service. Available on Fridays, frozen meals are provided for those who would like meals for the weekend.

Meals on Wheels Delivery Day – The Wrap-Up

12:15 p.m.
Back to the pickup location to return our insulated bags and our delivery list with any notes regarding folks who weren’t home or seemed unwell.

In just 90 minutes, we’ve engaged with over a dozen neighbors. Some are elderly, some are homebound, some are widowers who’ve never cooked for themselves, some are disabled in a way that prevents them from cooking. In my experience, they are all kind-hearted people who sincerely appreciate the volunteers who arrive on their doorsteps with a hot meal and a warm smile. It is rewarding and soul-filling. What a privilege.

Volunteer with Meals on Wheels

The Johnson County Area Agency on Aging provides home-delivered meals to frail and elderly homebound residents, age 60+. Staff and volunteers deliver meals between 10:45 a.m. and 1noon, Monday through Friday. Volunteers are always needed and appreciated. To volunteer for meal delivery in Johnson County, please call (913) 715-8895. To volunteer in other areas, please visit the Meals on Wheels website for more information.

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Born & raised in the KC metro, I now live in OP with my husband, 8yo son, goofy Golden mix & grouchy geriatric cat. After graduating from KU & spending over a decade as a buttoned-up corporate person, I quit my job, pierced my nose & hunkered down to raise a kiddo. Here we are, 6 years later, & I love spending my days writing, volunteering & planning our next far-flung adventure.