A community of givingHVO clients volunteer for Meals on Wheels
With a huge smile on her face, April Thomas delivered the first meal of the day on her Meals on Wheels route in Waynesville.
Thomas is a regular volunteer for the program, which provides meals to homebound residents in Haywood County, but there is something special about her and the other volunteers she works with.
Thomas is a Haywood Vocational Opportunities client. HVO provides vocational training and employment opportunities to adults with disadvantages and disabilities. And apparently, HVO also gives its clients a chance to give back to the community.
For the past several years every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, a group of volunteers sets out from HVO in a van to deliver much-needed meals to people who might otherwise go without.
It’s a service many elderly and disabled in the county depend upon, and knowing that the HVO volunteers put aside their own struggles and challenges to help others, makes their service all the more special, said Jeanne Naber, Meals on Wheels coordinator.
“Their clients are helping our recipients. I just can’t say enough about them. They’re just wonderful. All of them are great,” she said.
Although all of the HVO volunteers work full time, the company gives them time off to help out in the community, and they do so with smiles and enthusiasm.
“They’re always in a great mood. They have infectious smiles, and they hug everybody,” Naber said.
Aside from delivering meals, all of the Meals on Wheels volunteers are also providing recipients with some human interaction, which for many might be the only person they see all day.
Opening the door to a friendly volunteer can be the highlight of a person’s day, and it really makes a difference in their lives, said DSS Executive Director Ira Dove.
“It means a lot to our volunteers, too. They love to serve people and talk to them. It extends their family in a way,” he said. “They really want to check in on the person and help.”
As a meal recipient, Anna McAmis said she enjoys seeing the HVO volunteers and is thankful for the service they provide to her and her brother, Sydney, who lives with her.
“It’s good. I appreciate it,” she said.
For Thomas, volunteering for Meals on Wheels is a great way to help people, and she said her favorite part is setting up the trays for each person.
“They say, ‘Thank you,’” she said with a smile.
Sheri Lee, another HVO volunteer who goes along on the route, said she feels like the people she is helping are her friends.
“I help them out and give them food. I like it,” she said, adding that the free cookies Meals on Wheels gives to its volunteers are a nice bonus.
Developmental Disabilities Trainer Julie Brock drives the HVO group on their route, and she said her clients get a lot out of the experience.
“We’re at HVO to help them, but they need to know what it’s like to help others,” she said. They are proud of their volunteer work, and “they come out with smiles on their faces. It’s a chance to get out in the community.”