Woodward, Okla. —
A hot meal with a side of care.
That's what the volunteers with Panhandle Nutrition Service (PNS) deliver when they take meals to the homebound in Woodward.
Cathi Myers, site manager for PNS, said that the lunches delivered by PNS volunteers 5 days a week may sometimes be the only warm meals that those residents have that day.
But Myers said it is about more than just providing them with nutrition for their bodies. It is also about socialization and showing them that someone does care to come check on them and visit with them.
Because beyond being the only warm meal they have that day, the volunteer who delivers their meal may be the only other person they see that day.
"The meal delivery just gives us an opportunity to check in on some people who don't have family in the area to check in on them," Myers said, noting "I just think it's good for people to have fellowship every day and not just sit down and dwindle away."
She said there have even been cases where PNS meal deliverers have been there to help clients in times of need. She shared one story involving Frank Evans, who delivers PNS meals to clients in Ellis County.
"One time there was a little man in Fargo who had fallen and if it wasn't for Frank coming to check on him, who knows how long he would have laid there," she said.
If you have 30 to 45 minutes to spare at least once a week and want to see that "some of our most frail citizens" receive a warm meal delivered with a warm smile, then Panhandle Nutrition Service could use your help, Myers said.
Specifically, she said PNS currently needs at least one driver to help deliver a route on Monday mornings. She added that the agency is also always on the lookout for more relief drivers, who would be willing to cover routes when the regular drivers are unable to.
Myers explained that there are currently 3 daily routes that volunteers deliver to Monday through Friday. The meals are delivered to those who are homebound and age 60-years-old and above, or who are Advantage clients, she said.
"Each route has between 10 to 13 meals on it, but there's quite a few cases where you'll stop at one house and take 2 meals in," she said.
All the delivery locations are within Woodward city limits and "probably 5 to 6 miles is the most you'll drive," she said.
The whole delivery process usually takes less than an hour, Myers said.
"We start fixing the meals about 10:30 a.m. and we ask the volunteers to come pick them up by 10:45 a.m. Then they go out and deliver them and everybody's back usually by 11:30 a.m.," she said.
Other than having their own transportation and "being trustworthy," Myers said there aren't many requirements to becoming a PNS meal delivery volunteer, except the desire to help others.
ALL KINDS CAN HELP
Myers said being a PNS delivery volunteer can be "a great opportunity for someone that's retired."
Several of her volunteers are retirees, including Rita Airington, and her husband Bob, who have been helping to deliver meals for PNS together for "at least 9 years."
Airington said she would highly recommend the job.
"I would advise anybody to do it if they have the time," she said, noting "we always enjoy it, getting the chance to visit with the people. And they sure need it. The majority of the people we deliver to are not able to get up and fix anything. This way I know they're getting a hot meal."
But you don't have to be a retiree to help out.
"I have had a few young people who have helped deliver before too," Myers said.
In fact, one of the newest PNS meal delivery volunteers is only 28-years-old and said she joined because, "You're never too young to help someone else."
There have even been times when some families have delivered the meals together as well, Myers said.
"Lots of times we'll have somebody who delivers for us take their child or grandchild with them, and the people really enjoy that so, to see a young person," she said.
Myers said it often works best if there are 2 people, so that one person can drive while the other takes the meals up to the houses.
"But it doesn't have to be 2 people. I have a lot that do it alone," she said.
If you would like to volunteer to deliver meals for PNS, "just come down here to the senior center and meet with me, or they can call me at 254-2389," Myers said.
Except for holidays when the center is closed, Myers said she is usually at the center from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day Monday through Friday.
DONATIONS NEEDED TOO
Volunteering your time isn't the only way you can help support Panhandle Nutrition Services.
"We need volunteers and we need donations too," Myers said.
She said monetary donations are important, because they help the agency to receive additional funding to keep the meal delivery program going.
"We have grants that we have to match with the donations that we receive and right now we are really low on donations," she said.
Several months ago, she said PNS was even considering dropping down to only serving 3 meals a week because of lack of funding.
However, Myers said that "thanks to some very generous people here who made some nice donations, we were able to stay open."
Also donations are important because they impact the quality of meals that PNS is able to offer, not only for the meal deliveries, but also for those seniors who eat lunch at the Woodward Senior Center each weekday. In all, Myers said PNS serves about 130 meals each day through meals delivered around Woodward, those taken to Ellis County and those who eat at the senior center each day.
"We've had to change our menu around recently to help save on costs," Myers said.
While the menu is still determined by a dietician to ensure it has nutritional benefits, Myers said that some of the new menu options aren't as nice as previous meals.
"For one thing, we used to have desserts that everybody loved, but now we've just about taken all of the desserts off," she said. "We'll have a cookie or Jell-O from time to time, but the really delicious deserts, we just don't have anymore."
Also where the monthly menus used to include entrees such as beef tips, homestyle turkey, and scalloped chicken, Myers said those have been replaced with ham and beans, hot dogs, and "a lot of cabbage and those sorts of things that help us save on costs."
She is hopeful that if PNS can soon start to see an increase in donations, then the menu might get changed back.
However, Myers said sometimes the public doesn't realize it, but just because Panhandle Nutrition operates out of the Woodward Senior Center, they are not the same organization. Therefore donations to one will not go to help both, she said.
"People sometimes think if they donate to the senior center then it helps us. But we're 2 separate organizations so if you donate to the senior center then that money just goes to the senior center, it doesn't help us. And if you donate to us, the money stays with us and won't help the senior center," she said.
If you would like to make a donation to support the meal program, Myers said you can "make a check payable to Panhandle Nutrition and in the memo portion put Woodward only so it will only be used for Woodward County, then mail it to 1420 Downs Ave. (Woodward, OK 73801)."
When asked why she felt the public should help support Panhandle Nutrition Services, Myers said it is because "We're all going to be old someday. So it would be nice for us to make sure this program keeps going, in case we need to participate in it ourselves."