A hot meal and more


Meals on Wheels program seeks volunteers, donations



ABOVE: Meals on Wheels driver Jane McKee, in blue flannel, sets up Ruth Bixler with a hot meal, during brief daily visits Friday. She grasps Bernice Beightler’s hand in the front page photo. The women are two of about 60 Bellefontaine residents on Ms. McKee’s route that receive a daily meal from Meals on Wheels. Tri-County Community Action currently seeks volunteers to help maintain Meals on Wheels routes in Logan and Champaign counties. (EXAMINER PHOTO | NATE SMITH)

About 300 homebound residents in Logan and Champaign counties received a hot meal Friday they otherwise may have gone without.

They received one Thursday. Another arrives Monday.

Meals on Wheels is one service provided by Tri-County Community Action, and it’s one on which scores of residents throughout the area depend, says Jane McKee, who maintains the Bellefontaine route.

“These are homebound residents and many would go an entire day without seeing a single person if they didn’t receive Meals on Wheels,” she said Friday after delivering a hot meal of barbecue chicken and vegetables to a homebound man in his 80s.

“This meal and interaction, hopefully, gives them something to look forward to,” she went on, “and if they’re not smiling when I get there, I try to make sure they’re laughing when I leave.”

That’s no easy task. “Meals” drivers have only a short time to provide their client with the proper meal, before they must hurry off to the next stop.

The Bellefontaine route Ms. McKee maintains consists of about 60 stops, depending on the day of the week. Meals are delivered between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Some clients eat right away; others wait. Some split the meal between two sittings, and others might save it for the next day, Ms. McKee said.

“It’s up to me to listen and figure out what they do and don’t like and help make sure what they get matches their dietary needs,” she said.

“This is a wonderful thing,” Ruth Bixler said Friday upon receiving her daily hot meal. “I don’t eat everything, but much of the food is wonderful.”

Bernice Beightler said she’d never tried roasted cabbage until recently.

“It was in a meal, and I tried it and really liked it,” she said.

Ms. Beightler wasn’t sure at first about being interviewed by the newspaper, but eventually agreed, reasoning that it might be good for the Meals on Wheels program — a worthy cause in her reckoning.

“I rely on Jane,” Ms. Beightler said. “She helps me a lot.”  

Tri-County seeks volunteers and donations to help support its cause.

Five Meals on Wheels drivers manage 11 routes, spanning some 350 miles in Logan and Champaign counties. Tri-County has offered a Meals on Wheels for nearly 20 years.

“In many communities across the country, businesses and individuals donate their time daily, weekly and monthly delivering meals to homebound residents,” said Denise Birt, Tri-County executive director.

Businesses and individuals can “adopt” meal delivery routes for up to 25 clients, and Tri-County can accommodate volunteers based on where they live.

Fundraising efforts, too, are ongoing.

Tri-County has teamed with local restaurants to donate a portion of proceeds from participating guest checks to Meals on Wheels.

Friday, 30 percent of guests checks between 2 and 9 p.m. at Waffle House, 1133 N. Main St., benefited the program. Participants must bring a flier currently being circulated by drivers and the organization.

“I’m going to these fundraisers,” Ms. McKee said. “Meals on Wheels is too valuable of a program not to have around.”

She would know.

“I got my mother on the Meals on Wheels route in the late 1990s after she became homebound,” Ms. McKee said. “It provides peace of mind.”

Funds are needed in part to help maintain delivery vehicles. The “check engine” light is routinely on in the van Ms. McKee drives, and the van idles badly.

“Forget going over (45 mph),” she said.

One driver utilizes his personal vehicle while a delivery vehicle is out of commission.

“If you’re shut-in or can’t or don’t cook — those are the people rely on Meals on Wheels and we can’t let them down,” Ms. McKee said.

For more information on other Tri-County Community Action services, visit www.tricountycls.com/index.htm.

To volunteer or donate to Meals on Wheels, call 593-0084.