Lincoln City Meals on Wheels honored 25 of its volunteers last week for their dedication in delivering warm meals to the elderly and others in need.

Keynote speaker Dick Anderson said Meals on Wheels is about more than just food.

“It really is a delivery of nutrition, but it’s not just the food,” he said. “In essence, it’s about social contact. I’ve described it as a fragile and cherished social population that needs the contact as well as the health and safety check.”

Lincoln City meal site manager Terri Hayden said her group of volunteers is particularly close-knit and committed to their positions.

“They consider this a job. They show up before I do,” she said. “Their work ethic – I told them the other day that during my volunteer appreciation events I don’t like to single out folks and they told me, ‘We don’t want that. We’re a family. Don’t single out anybody. We’re all in this together.’

“And it’s true. They are a family.”

More than that, though, Hayden said Meals on Wheels volunteers become part of the recipients’ family as well.

“It really is about the relationships,” she said. “If we lose a meal recipient, they move or pass away, it affects the team.

“When I first started, I was riding along with one of the drivers and I asked, ‘Why do you do this?’ And he turned to me and said, ‘It’s the right thing to do. These people don’t have food. Who’s going to look after them?’

“We do have a responsibility if someone isn’t home to call it in, do a police check, a welfare check.”

Hayden noted that the number of meal recipients is always fluctuating.

“We were at an all-time high of about 100 around Christmastime,” she said. “People move into assisted living, move closer to their kids. Or unfortunately, they pass on. But recently we’ve been pretty steady at about 78 home-delivered meals.”

Hayden broke down an average day in the life of a Meals on Wheels volunteer. The volunteers are split into teams: setup kitchen crew and drivers.

“The setup kitchen crew arrives around 6 a.m.,” she said. “They get the bags ready, the to-go containers ready, they prep the dining room.”

From there, the meals are sealed and packed for the drivers.

“The drivers come in at 9:30 a.m., and we have five routes,” she said. “A couple of teams do the routes together but mostly it’s a single person who comes in, loads up and starts delivering. People get their food anywhere between 10 a.m. and noon.”

Delivery routes might take about two hours, she said.

Chapel-By-The-Sea Pastor Paul Hayden (Terri’s husband and fellow Meals on Wheels enthusiast) said volunteering has many positive effects within a community and for volunteers themselves.

“We know that physiologically, people who volunteer live longer,” he said. “There has been research on volunteerism. Like a runner’s high, there is a volunteer high. It produces great endorphins. I think that when we care for others, there is a great benefit.”

The volunteers were given a luncheon at the Chapel-By-The-Sea Presbyterian Church. Gift boxes filled with chocolates and snaks were donated by Harry and David and other Lincoln City businesses.

The Taft 7-12 High School Culinary Class catered lunch.

To learn more or to volunteer for Meals on Wheels, call Terri Hayden at 541-994-7731 or visit www.ocwcog.org

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