When she opened the door, her unsteady gait, bent back and wrinkled face were evidence of many decades lived. But my first impression of Doris was her lovely smile when I told her I was delivering food from Meals on Wheels.
I’m a member of the Rotary Club of Westlake Village. Meals on Wheels is one of the community projects supported by the club.
On this particular Saturday around 11 a.m., I collected bags of hot and cold food and a list of deliveries to be made from Los Robles Hospital’s east campus in Westlake Village.
There were nine people on my list, and Doris was my first stop.
After we introduced ourselves, Doris told me she was lonely and the Meals on Wheels volunteers were the only people that visited her. She said the food is well-prepared and she loves the flavors. As we talked she saw me looking at framed photos on a side table and told me, with tears in her eyes, that they were pictures of family members who had died or no longer contacted her. She had worked as a nurse and had loved helping people, she said.
As I left I touched her hand, telling her I was glad to meet her and we’d see each other again soon.
My next delivery was to a mobile home, where I walked past an access ramp to the front door, which had a sign telling me to come in. A man of about 70 rolled toward me in his wheelchair.
“I very much appreciate that you are visiting me,” John said, softly touching my arm. He mentioned that he was a war vet and would like to share his memories with me sometime. I was sorry I couldn’t visit longer with this interesting man, but I had other deliveries to make.
Next I came to a small, second-floor apartment, where Dorothy, a middle-aged woman wearing thick bifocals, gently shook my hand. She asked if I would bring her a soda from the refrigerator, saying her arthritis made it difficult to open the fridge door and to walk down the stairs to leave her apartment.
As we talked above the noise of her small television, she said she needs new hearing aids but can’t afford them. I made a mental note to look into her situation and left her, happy to know that at least she would not go hungry that day.
At my next stop, Marie greeted me at the door wearing a flowered dress and a gardenia perfume that I remember my mother wearing in the 1950s. I heard a Frank Sinatra record playing in the background. She had worked to set a mood for my visit and to dress up for the occasion. We talked about how delicious the food smelled and left each other with a friendly hug.
Nearby stood my next destination, a neglected motel converted into an apartment house for low-income residents. I made two deliveries there, at separate homes a few doors away from each other. Most of the quarters consisted of a combined living room/bedroom, a small kitchen and a tiny bathroom. The two people there received their food gratefully.
My next visit was with Henry, who remembered me from before. We’d made a connection because he’d grown up in a European city I was familiar with. He uses an oxygen tank and has limited mobility. His son had been killed in a war and Henry has no one left in his family. He wore his son’s college sweatshirt, saying it gave him comfort and a link with the past. As I left I told him I looked forward to seeing him again.
A few blocks away lives Becky, who I know well. Her small apartment has a few basic pieces of furniture, including a brocaded velvet chair by one of the walls. Next to that was a table holding a dozen pill bottles. Becky said she pays so much for the medicine she needs that she can’t afford to buy food. Meals on Wheels makes it possible for her to be fed.
My last delivery was to Shirley, a frail woman who had waited eagerly by her patio door for my arrival. After setting down her food, I sat on her sofa for a chat. I admired the flowers that were placed all around her small apartment. She told me they are artificial because she doesn’t have the energy to care for real ones.
After completing my deliveries, I drove home, reflecting on the good feeling I had knowing I had touched these people in a meaningful way. I gave them food and they fed my soul.
Meals on Wheels brings nutritious food and a human touch to many people in need. The volunteer delivering the food is often the only person the recipient has contact with. Volunteering is an incredible way to spend a few hours of your day.
Meals on Wheels is always seeking volunteers. Visit www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org for one of the best experiences you will ever have.