REGION – On a recent Monday morning, volunteers came rushing in the door of the Springfield Meals Center, busily loading their cars and preparing for another day’s deliveries.
March 2022 marks 50 years since Meals on Wheels, the nation’s premier nutrition program for seniors, was funded. For Vermont’s aging population, it has become a lifeline for many of our neighbors – even more so during the Covid pandemic.
“Today we’re delivering 109 meals,” said Jane Nichols, a volunteer who was setting out meals that morning. “We prepare anywhere from 85-100 meals every day, and then get ready for the dozen or so people who attend our congregate meals at noon.”
Meals on Wheels of Greater Springfield regularly brings meals to seniors who are unable to leave their homes or prepare their own food every day in Springfield, Chester, Andover, Baltimore, and Weathersfield. According to Director Sue Levine, there are about 95 local residents who rely on this service regularly, as well as some residents living with disabilities at the Vermont Center for Independent Living. In all, the Springfield meal site delivers more than 2,000 meals every month.
“We just added a gentleman in Chester to my route,” said one volunteer. “He had been falling, and had two knees replaced, and was just very uncomfortable thinking about shopping and cooking. He is so incredibly grateful that we can make his life just a little bit easier as he recuperates.”
That afternoon at the Bellows Falls Area Senior Center, staff, board members, and volunteers filed into the comfortable gathering room and the conversation turned to another day’s successful Meals on Wheel’s deliveries.
“You won’t find a better meal for the price,” declared volunteer driver Fred Yates. “They’re balanced, nutritious, and delicious. It’s a great service.”
“And we have a good time. You won’t find a friendlier bunch of people anywhere,” added another volunteer, Wayne Johnson.
One quickly gets the impression that this is a team that is genuinely happy and dedicated to be serving the community as they do.
The Bellows Falls operation is unique in southeastern Vermont, in that it crosses the state border. “We cover Walpole and North Walpole, as well as Rockingham,” said Senior Center director Teahan Kosut. With daily meals provided to more than 60 area residents who can not leave their home or prepare meals on their own, the faithful fleet of volunteers is a key element of the operation. In November 2021, the center hit an all-time record, providing 2,084 meals in one month.
“The program is focused on nutritional needs, but there is also the social aspect of having a familiar, friendly face come to the door,” says Wendi Germain, the nutrition and wellness director of Senior Solutions, which provides support to the program. “For many, these drivers may be the only face they see all week. We so appreciate these volunteers. I cannot overemphasize how critical it is to have public support for these programs, through both volunteerism and donations.” Wendi noted that Meals on Wheels operations across Vermont rely heavily on public donations to keep them running – with more than 50% of the funding coming from local donations.
Those wishing to volunteer to deliver or to sign up to receive meals from the Springfield site, can call Sue Levine at 802-885-5879. Donations to help support the operation in its 50th Anniversary year can be made by a check to MOW Greater Springfield and mailed to them at 139 Main St., Springfield VT 05156.
Those wishing to volunteer drive time for the Bellows Falls site should contact Teagan Kosut at 802-463-3907. Donations may be made directly to the Bellows Falls Area Senior Center and mailed to them at 18 Tuttle St, Bellows Falls, VT 05101.