Bishop Richard J. Malone is one who practices what he preaches. The man who has spoken about the need to help the neighbors offered his Christian generosity by volunteering with Meals on Wheels just before Christmas.
"I always look forward to my Meals on Wheels route during the month of December. Especially at this time of year, it is a joy to participate in this wonderful and much-needed program," Bishop Malone said. "As always, my experience this year was a very positive one as I met new friends and had time to visit with them while delivering their warm meal."
Meals on Wheels volunteers visit with homebound seniors and disabled individuals to bring them nutritiously-balanced lunch and dinner. During the quick visit, volunteers check up on the client to make sure they are feeling OK. Volunteers serve as a critical link between clients and their families, loved ones and neighbors. All volunteers are trained to watch out for troubling developments in each home, such as a recipient who seems out of sorts or ill, or an unsafe condition in the house, then follow specific instructions for reporting such incidents.
Founded in 1969, Meals on Wheels for Western New York Inc. first delivered meals to 25 residents on Buffalo's West Side. The program quickly grew. In 1971, 34,000 meals were served. That number more than doubled in just two years. In 2012, the program delivered its 25 millionth meal.
Demographics indicate that the demand for meal services will significantly increase as the elderly population continues to grow. Demand is also expected to grow due to health care reform, which places an emphasis on "aging in place," which is significantly more cost effective than assisted living. Meals on Wheels is prepared to assist the community in nourishing and enriching the lives of more and more seniors as the need grows.
The Catholic Center in downtown Buffalo currently has 12 volunteers who take turns making deliveries to a dozen residents on the West Side. Each Wednesday, a team of two people, a driver and a runner, stops by the Richmond-Summer Senior Center to pick up hot and cold healthy meals for senior neighbors. Each client receives a lunch and dinner, with juice and dessert. The nutritionally-balanced meals offer 75 percent of the daily nutrition that they need.
All volunteers need to be able to do is drive and carry the meals. Meals on Wheels gives the teams detailed notes on where to drive, what door to use and what to watch out for in terms of pets, health issues and where to place the food.
"I know those of us who volunteer really enjoy bringing Christ to others in this unique and direct way," said Sarah Leahy, coordinator for the Catholic Center. "Because the route is busy, we don't have time to visit, but a simple smile, wishing them a great day, and providing their meal is huge. I know for me, personally, it reminds me to hold them and others living alone, struggling with illnesses, and/or living in poverty in personal prayer, giving names and faces to some of my brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. This service has also allowed different pairs of employees, sometimes from different departments to get to know each other better."
Meals on Wheels is always looking for more volunteers.
"I am grateful to the Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers who organize and conduct these routes regularly throughout the year," the bishop said. "Without this vital volunteer service, many of our seniors and homebound neighbors would be adversely affected. I encourage everyone to consider volunteering with Meals on Wheels in some capacity. It is a wonderful opportunity to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as you feed the hungry and bring comfort to those in need."
"A visit from the bishop brings incredible joy during the holiday season, and we are so honored to be a part of providing this experience. We are grateful that the they enjoy visiting with our homebound seniors, and we appreciate their support of the work that we do every day," said Chris Procknal, CEO and president of Meals on Wheels for WNY.
Meals on Wheels for WNY serves more than 3,400 homebound seniors and disabled individuals each year. This wouldn't be possible without the help of 1,700 incredible volunteers - 400 of whom are on the streets each day.