Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Every week, five days a week, volunteers deliver 70 hot meals to homebound seniors across Macon County. Macon County’s Senior Service’s Meals on Wheels program is solely manned by volunteers who commit a few hours out of their day to not only bring a meal, but to offer companionship to individuals who cannot leave their home whether it be because of a physical disability or because of a mental disability.

“A lot of people who are homebound are lonely and look forward to the daily visits,” said Deborah Ballew, Nutrition Project Coordinator for the senior center. “The people delivering the meals enjoy the interaction as much as the ones receiving it. We always say that it is more than a meal.”

Ballew says that those who volunteer to deliver love the close interaction with seniors in the area, “They love our clients and often refer to them as ‘their people.’ They develop pretty close relationships with them as well, they go in and visit with them for a few minutes, make sure that they what they need, just keep an extra eye on them. They develop some pretty close friendships over their routes.”

The Meals on Wheels program has been serving residents in Macon County for decades. Some of the volunteers at the senior services center have been volunteering since its inception and continue to do it today.

“I volunteer because I feel like I need to do something to give back,” said Gary Penland. “I also help care for a handicapped boy and he gets to go with me and us volunteering together lets him feel like he is doing something worthwhile.

Penland has been volunteering with the Meals on Wheels program for three years, and volunteers four days a week.

“The most enjoyable part is the people,” said Penland. “You know what you are doing is very much needed and you meet people that you get very close with.”

Richard started volunteering five years ago because his neighbor told him he needed to do something to give back to the community. “I came because he asked me to and I enjoy it so I have been coming back for the last five years,” said Richard. “There are really great people, not just the clients, but the volunteers too.”

Meals on Wheels provides meals for 70 people, five days a week. The program is funded through grants, and with community donations are able to expand and extend the number of people they are able to help.

With the winter months, a lot of the program’s volunteers have left for the winter, causing a need for more volunteers to fill gaps in the shifts.

“Even if it is just one day a week, we appreciate any time people can give to help keep this program going,” said Ballew. “The volunteers are absolutely imperative to this program and its success. Our volunteers are the most important aspect of the senior service center, especially for the Meals on Wheels program.

For those interested in volunteering at the senior center, call (828)349-2058.