Even at 87 years old, Clinton resident Alice Kirby volunteers her time to make sure a group of elderly shut-ins receive at least one nutritious meal a day.
Despite being a senior herself, Kirby goes to the Butler Court Nutrition Site every day and helps assemble meals that are delivered through the Elderly Nutrition Program funded through Title III grant funds and the Older Americans Act. Kirby even helps deliver meals on occasion.
“I take my walker and I go up to the houses to give out the food,” Kirby said. “I may have gotten old, but I still do it.”
Kirby began volunteering for the program and delivering meals in 1985. Like many others, Kirby has gotten older and is unable to volunteer as much as she once did. Unfortunately, that is what has happened to many of the volunteers and the program is now in dire need of people to step up and help deliver the meals.
According to Marie Faircloth, Garland Senior Center director, about 52 meals a day go out of the Butler Court site. It takes about 12 volunteers a day to get all the meals sorted and delivered.
“We deliver food to frail seniors who can’t get out of their home or maybe can’t get into the kitchen to prepare their own meals,” Faircloth explained.
The program has a list of about 35 volunteers, but they aren’t available everyday. When one of the site’s five routes can’t be delivered through volunteer services, Faircloth and other staff are left having to fill in the gaps.
“Routes can usually be done in about 45 minutes,” Faircloth explained. “We have some people that come during their lunch break on some days and help deliver the meals.”
Linda Armwood, Nutrition Program manager, said the program is intended to help improve the dietary intakes of participants and offers opportunities to form new friendships and create informal support networks.
“The volunteers are the fibers of our program’s existence,” Armwood said. “Yes, one might say it’s a commitment to service that gives back to communities, to overall define it. But, its involvement lends so much more.”
The program, Armwood, explained, is more than just a meal. In many cases, it keeps the individuals from being socially isolated.
“It allows interaction with another, a communication that would not otherwise occur if our volunteers weren’t able to make the connection,” Armwood said. “The program empowers, enables, and builds communities, assisting to maintain the independence of those at high risk.”
At one time, Faircloth said there were a lot of volunteers. Now, those volunteers are on the receiving end of the program and people are needed to help get the meals into the community.
“Volunteering is very important,” Faircloth explained. “Sometimes, the volunteer is the only face the senior sees in a day. It’s important for us to take time and volunteers for these services.”
Johnny Allen has been volunteering and delivering meals for the last 10 years. After retirement, he said he wanted to do something that was meaningful, so he started delivering meals.
“I enjoy this,” Allen said. “I need to get out and do things and this is the way I do it.”
For other volunteers, they may be new on the job, but the reward is just as great.
“I just started and I realized everyone needs a purpose,” Christine Byrd said. “My purpose has been to deliver the meals.”
Faircloth said she wished all volunteers could be as dedicated as Kirby, who continues to work at least one day a month delivering meals through her church. Kirby isn’t able to deliver meals everyday, but says she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I will keep doing this until the Lord stops me,” Kirby said.
For anyone interested in volunteering, contact Armwood at 910-592-4653.
“We constantly have ongoing efforts to capitalize on securing volunteers,” Armwood said. “It’s so vital to how we operate. The rewards are forever meaningful in so many ways.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.